Britain could be back to normal by the spring, a top Government adviser claimed today after Matt Hancock refused to rule out making Covid vaccinations mandatory.
Professor Sir John Bell, who advises ministers on tackling the virus, said he believed they would be able to roll out millions of jabs this winter because the NHS already distributes millions of flu jabs ‘without any effort whatsoever’.
He added that the success of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines meant it was ‘more likely’ the hotly-anticipated Oxford vaccine would also trigger the production of antibodies to beat back the virus.
There was a mad scramble to secure doses of the Moderna vaccine in Whitehall yesterday, after trials showed the jab may be 94 per cent effective against Covid-19.
The shot, which is administered twice over four weeks, is much easier to distribute than Pfizer’s vaccine because it is stored at -20C, compared to its competitors -78C.
Government officials revealed they had secured 5million doses of Moderna’s vaccine yesterday, which will arrive in the spring. The UK’s Vaccine Taskforce secured 40million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine before results were announced.
It comes after the Health Secretary said he hoped a ‘very large proportion’ of people would get vaccinated – experts estimate coverage of 80 per cent or more may be needed to stop the virus spreading – but admitted he wasn’t ruling out making it a legal requirement.
Professor Sir John Ball, who advises the Government on the virus, said he was still sure the UK would be able to return to normal by the spring
Health Secretary Matt Hancock held a TV briefing last night in which he announced that Britain had bought five million doses of the Moderna vaccine which a trial claimed is 94.5 per cent effective
Families could be banned from mixing for MONTHS even if lockdown is lifted, health chief predicts
Health chiefs have warned families could be still banned from mixing at Christmas even if lockdown is formally lifted on December 2 – as ministers admitted people will not know what is happening for weeks.
Dr Susan Hopkins, a Public Health England director, suggested last night that the lowest level of restrictions could be upgraded, meaning that households would still be banned from mixing indoors even if the blanket squeeze is ended.
And Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said this morning that there will not be any ‘definitive’ decision on whether the blanket curbs can end as scheduled until the end of the month.
In a round of interviews, Mr Jenrick said the ‘hope and expectation’ was that the system of local Tiers could be reintroduced in England from December 2 – but he admitted that they could be overhauled.
However, Boris Johnson is under huge pressure from his own MPs to make the system looser than it was before.
When asked about whether the UK could be back to normal in four months time, Professor Bell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We distribute 30 to 40 million flu vaccines in two months without any effort whatsoever.
‘So we can get vaccines into people in the UK and, indeed, I suspect in most western countries pretty effectively.
‘So I think the idea that we’re going to vaccinate a very large percentage of the population by spring is completely possible and I think that will make a big difference, because people will be less anxious about catching the disease’ because they’ll be vaccinated, transmissions will then fall to a low level and we’ll be back, look we may not be back completely to normal but things are going to look dramatically different by the spring.’
He added that the positive results announced by other vaccine trials made it ‘more likely’ the Oxford vaccine would work. Its results are expected this week.
Professor Bell also said he thought any vaccine was likely to stop asymptomatic infections and transmission of the virus.
‘I’d be very surprised if these (the vaccines) don’t reduce transmission,’ he said.
Professor Bell has previously made predictions that the UK will be able to get back to normal come March 2021, and said he is ‘confident’ about the change.
It comes after Mr Hancock suggested yesterday it could become a legal requirement for people in the UK to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Speaking on talkRadio, the Health Secretary yesterday said: ‘I have learned not to rule things out during this pandemic’.
Mr Hancock held a TV briefing last night in which he announced that Britain had bought 5million doses of the Moderna vaccine.
It has since emerged that this last-minute deal – which had not been finalised until yesterday, after the trial results were announced – may have cost Britain $10 (£7.56) more per dose than the US paid for the jab.
At a cost of $125million (£94.6m) for five million doses, reported by The Times, Britain will pay $25 (£18.91) per dose, compared to $15.25 (£11.54) in the US, which bought 100m doses for $1.5billion (£1.13bn).
Mr Hancock’s comments came as US firm Moderna said its jab may be 94.5 per cent effective against the illness.
Early trial results were announced yesterday and revealed that 95 people out of more than 25,000 had tested positive in a study – only five of them had been given the vaccine and the other 90 had been given a fake vaccine to compare the results.
Britain has since bought five million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which could become available by spring next year.
It is the second jab which is now very likely to be given out in the UK, after a similar vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech released promising results last week, suggesting their jab was 90 per cent effective.
The Government is now planning to dish out that vaccine as soon as December 1.
Downing Street insisted there were no plans to make vaccination mandatory but the Prime Minister’s official spokesman also declined to rule out compulsion.
Mr Hancock told talkRadio: ‘I hope that a very large proportion of people will want to take the vaccine because it’s the right thing to do.’
But he added: ‘We are not proposing at this stage to make it mandatory.’
Moderna vs Pfizer vaccine
What type of vaccine?
What temperature to store?
How effective is the vaccine?
How is the vaccine administered?
Has the UK ordered doses?
-78C, and use for up to five days after thawing
90 per cent, according to early trials
Two injections, given 21 days apart
-20C, the same as a household freezer
94.5 per cent, according to early trials
Two injections, 28 days apart
5million to arrive by the spring
Asked if he would rule out mandatory vaccination, the Health Secretary said: ‘I have learned not to rule things out during this pandemic because you have to watch what happens and you have to make judgments accordingly.’
He said there were ‘complications’ around making it mandatory because some people may not be able to take it for medical reasons.
Downing Street also refused to rule out the prospect of making it a requirement for eligible people to take the vaccine although officials stressed that was not the plan.
‘We want as many people as possible to take the vaccine,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
‘It will go through rigorous safety checks before it is cleared for use.
‘But we are not proposing to make it mandatory.’
Asked whether there could be restrictions – such as a public transport ban – imposed on people who refused a vaccine, the spokesman said: ‘We are not proposing to make it mandatory.’
Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething has described mandatory vaccination as ‘the most extreme and most unlikely outcome possible’.
Mr Gething told a press conference that it was ‘certainly not any part of our working assumption’ in Wales.
He said he had always been ‘deeply sceptical’ about the benefits of mandatory vaccination and was not ‘particularly keen to try to change the law for that to happen’.
‘I’m interested that people understand the evidence about the safety of a vaccine, then making the right choice to protect them, their family and their community,’ he said.