A health worker in Hollywood, Florida, injects a person for a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Sept. 9 during clinical trials. Eva Marie Uzcategui / Bloomberg / Getty Images
Britain is expected to receive its first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the coming hours, England’s deputy chief medical officer said on Thursday.
“We expect to receive [the Pfizer vaccine] very short in the UK and I mean hours, not days, “Jonathan Van-Tam told the BBC’s Five Live radio show.
On Wednesday, the UK Ministry of Health announced that up to 800,000 doses of the vaccine – enough to vaccinate 400,000 people – will be made available next week.
Van-Tam also said he believes US and European regulators will approve Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in the coming “days or weeks” in a separate interview with BBC Breakfast.
I don’t expect other regulators like the US regulators to lag far behind this vaccine. I think that will be resolved in the next few days, “said Van-Tam.
His comments came after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, claimed the UK health authorities, which approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday, did not review the study data as carefully as the US Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) does in its review.
“The way the FDA is, our FDA is doing it, is the right way,” Fauci said in an interview with Fox News. “We are studying the data very carefully to ensure the American public that this is a safe and effective vaccine,” he said.
Van-Tam said the UK vaccination program would prioritize elderly people in nursing homes and their workers, then “anyone over 80” and “people at risk”.
“More vaccines are coming, we have invested in seven more and they should be launched in the spring,” added Van-Tam.
The senior epidemiologist also told the BBC that pregnant women shouldn’t be vaccinated at this point: “We don’t have any data at this point. There may be no problem at all, but safety first.”
As for children, Van-Tam added that they are not a priority at the moment, but that manufacturers “are now thinking of doing experiments on children”.
The deputy chief physician also asked the members of the priority groups to accept the call for vaccinations. The success of the vaccination program and subsequent lifting of restrictions depends on public compliance with the plan.
It’s not my job to give you a magic number because it all depends on how quickly the vaccine is introduced and if the people who received the vaccine get in touch. If this vaccine turns out to be 10%, then even if this vaccine is perfect, it has no public health impact at the population level, “he added.
Regarding the length of immunity provided by the Pfizer vaccine, Van-Tam said there was still no certainty “how long it will take”.
“We have some data that these vaccines will stimulate T cells and antibodies that could last a long time. But we don’t know how long it will take. I am confident that, as a bare minimum, it will be a few months,” he added added.
Van-Tam said there are still some “storage conditions” related to the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at minus 70 degrees, but there are also a limited number of times the vaccine can be “exposed to ambient air temperature” can transport.
He added that he hoped the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine “should be much simpler and more usable in multiple NHS” [National Health Service] Settings, “could” be “as easy to use as the flu vaccine”.
Van-Tam added that he was “hopeful” that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine could be ready by Christmas.