Britain sticks two fingers up to Covid as we beat world to get vaccine – and millions will have it by Christmas

THE UK yesterday took the first steps to victory over Covid-19 as we beat the world to get a vaccine.

Millions of Brits are expected to receive the Pfizer jab in time for Christmas after it was approved by regulators.

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Boris Johnson hailed the “fantastic” news but warned it was not “game over” and to stick to anti-virus rules.

Mr Johnson told a No10 press conference: “We have been waiting and hoping for the day when the searchlights of science would pick out our invisible enemy, and give us the power to stop that enemy from making us ill. And now the scientists have done it.

“And they have used the virus to perform a kind of biological jiu-jitsu, to turn the virus on itself in the form of a vaccine.”

Britain became the first country in the world to get one thanks to Brexit — after breaking with Brussels to rubber-stamp it in record time.

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam admitted he got “emotional” when told the MHRA UK regulator approved the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

He said: “What a momentous journey and international effort it has been. Discovery by two scientists who originally lived in Turkey, development by a German biotech company with the involvement of a massive US pharmaceutical giant and the involvement in our own UK MHRA to bring home the goods.”


Lorries carrying the first doses from Belgium are on their way, with 800,000 vials arriving in the “coming days”.

Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, which works 95 per cent of the time.

People need two jabs to be fully protected, and millions will be inoculated in the next few weeks, with most of the rollout early next year.

The military will turbocharge delivery as part of the biggest domestic deployment of troops in UK history.

However there were fears that elderly care home residents may miss out on the first batch despite being the most at risk.

Health chiefs admit restrictions around the vaccine have created a “logistical nightmare”.

It must be transported at -70C, moved only four times and given from a tray of 975 vials that cannot be split.

The typical care home has just a few dozen residents, meaning hundreds of vials costing around £15 each would be wasted.

Q&A on Pfizer ‘miracle’

HOW can we be sure the vaccine is safe with such a short testing period?

The vaccine has passed through all regulatory processes and clinical trials but has been treated as a priority.

Will people who have already had Covid be vaccinated?

People will be vaccinated whether or not they’ve had Covid.

Are people protected after the first dose of the vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses to be fully effective. The doses are given 21 days apart and are effective seven days later.

Is it compulsory to have the vaccine?

No, people in the UK are not being told they must have the vaccine but health officials strongly advise those offered it have it.

How long will immunity last once vaccinated?

Scientists don’t know the exact answer to that at the moment. Trial volunteers will be monitored for many months.

Is it safe for pregnant women and their babies to take the vaccine?

Women are advised not to have a Covid vaccine during pregnancy, or if they are planning to get pregnant in the next three months.

Could there be a delay having the second vaccination due to low stock or supply problems?

The first batch of 800,000 will be used for 400,000 people.

The NHS will instead start vaccinating care home staff and the over-80s from 53 hospital hubs next week, with NHS staff inoculated shortly after.

There are high hopes the Oxford jab, which is easier to transport, will be approved within weeks, and care homes will get it first.

In total, the UK has ordered 350 million doses of seven vaccines.

The PM hailed a “fantastic moment” but warned Brits must stick to rules for a final push.

He said: “Worst thing now is to think now is the moment when we can relax our guard and think that is game over in the fight against Covid. This is not the end. We have to fight on and continue tough measures.”

But he said the vaccine alongside testing will help us escape lockdown.

The PM declared: “We are no longer resting on the mere hope that we can return to normal next year in the spring, but rather on the sure and certain knowledge that we will succeed.

“And together reclaim our lives and all the things about our lives that we love.”


However Professor Van-Tam warned we will never eradicate Covid, and we could be wearing masks in flu season for years.

He did not think there would be a time soon where we can “have a massive party, throw masks and hand sanitiser away and say it’s behind us like the end of the war”.

The PM corrected him, saying he had “high hopes” the vaccine would return life to normality.

But they agreed “personal habits” like mask-wearing may continue well into the future.

MHRA head Dr June Raine insisted no corners had been cut in assessing the vaccine’s safety.

She told the Downing Street briefing: “The safety of the public will always come first. This recommendation has only been given by the MHRA following the most rigorous scientific assessment of every piece of data so that it meets the required strict standards of safety, of effectiveness and of quality.”

Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla called the MHRA announcement a “historic moment”.

He said: “This authorisation is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK.”

It came as UK Covid deaths saw their second-highest daily increase since May, of 648 — with the total fatalities now at 59,699.

However infections have dropped by 11 per cent in a week.

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