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A MASS roll-out of a Covid-19 vaccine in Britain could be finished in as little as three months, government scientists have claimed.
Scientists working on the Oxford vaccine hope regulators approve it before the beginning of 2021.
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Health officials estimate that every adult could receive a dose of the vaccine within six months.
Government sources involved in making and distributing the vaccine told The Times that they expected a full programme could take six months or less, once it had been approved, and said it would probably be significantly quicker than six months.
A Royal Society report had previously claimed it could take a year before everyone who was eligible received a vaccine.
But health officials now believe it can be done far faster.
Rules are currently being drawn up to allow a much wider group of healthcare staff to give the jabs.
Training for physiotherapists, midwives and other health professionals to help administer the vaccine is due to start within weeks, the paper claims.
Drive-through vaccination centres are also being planned to cope with the vast logistical problem of administering vaccines to tens of millions of people.
Even armed forces are also said to be likely to called in to help out.
A government source told the paper: “We are looking at closer to six months and it is likely to be far shorter than that.”
However, others in government are more cautious, saying that while priority groups could be done quickly, vaccinating every adult could take longer.
The time it takes would be dependent on which vaccine is successful as well as the smooth running of any nationwide vaccination programme.
While the quick vaccination of the elderly and high-risk groups would be seen as being essential to saving lives as well as easing restrictions, there would be less urgency with vaccinating younger, healthy adults.
Oxford University is currently working on developing a vaccine with Astrazeneca, which is the most advanced of those backed by the UK.
Human trials have been taking place since April and there are hopes it could be approved by regulators by Christmas.
Britain has 53million adults and to give each adult two doses of a vaccine within six months would mean 600,000 a day.
If the same was to be achieved in three months, to reach a target of Easter, it would mean 1.2million jabs a day.
Care home residents and staff would be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by those aged over 80 and NHS staff.
Under a scheme developed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, it will then be given to all over 65s, followed by younger adults at higher risk, which could include those from ethnic minorities as well as those with serious health issues.
People over 50 would be next, with younger adults at the back of the line.
The government has already ordered 100m doses of the Oxford vaccine, which are already being manufactured even before it has been proved to be successful.
Scientists involved in the trial are hopeful they will get results before the end of the year.
To be considered a success it has to be shown it prevents at least 50 per cent of infections.
If approved by the regulators, the NHS is ready to begin mass vaccination almost immediately, the paper says.
The Royal Society published a report this week warning of the challenges in producing a coronavirus vaccine.
Nilay Shah, head of the department of chemical engineering at Imperial College London, and a co-author of the report, said: “Even when the vaccine is available it doesn’t mean within a month everybody is going to be vaccinated.
"We’re talking about six months, nine months… a year. There’s not a question of life suddenly returning to normal in March.”
The Department of Health spokesman strongly disputed these claims, saying: “This study fails to reflect the enormous amount of planning and preparation that has taken place across government to quickly roll-out a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine.
“We are confident we have adequate provision or transport, PPE and logistical expertise to deploy a Covid-19 vaccine across the country as quickly as possible.”
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