Jonathan Ashworth said the country was now locked in a “race against time” against Covid-19, and called for NHS staff to receive priority for the new vaccine.
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‘Entirely possible’ to tweak vaccines
Oxford’s Professor Andrew Pollard said it should be “entirely possible” to tweak vaccines should that be necessary to deal with new variants of the virus.
He told the Today programme: “At the moment there’s no evidence that the vaccines won’t work against a new variant but that is something which we have to look at. We can’t be complacent about this variant, or perhaps future variants.
“And so one of the really important things that science has to continue to do now as we move forwards is to monitor the viruses that are around, and to make sure that vaccines still are effective against them.
“If in the future, it was necessary to tweak the vaccines that’s entirely possible to do, but I don’t think that’s something to be concerned about today, but we can’t be complacent, we have to keep watching,”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he has a “very high degree of confidence” that the pandemic’s situation in the UK will change by the spring.
Asked if he could provide a timeline for when under-50s without pre-existing conditions may be vaccinated, Mr Hancock told Times Radio: “It depends on the speed of manufacture, I wish I could give you a date, your invitation right now, but we can’t because it depends on the speed of the manufacture.
“This product, it’s not a chemical compound it’s a biological product so it’s challenging to make, so that is the rate-limiting factor in terms of the rollout.
“Now that we have two vaccines being delivered we can accelerate, how fast we can accelerate will be determined by how fast the manufacturers can produce.
“But what I can tell you is that I now have a very high degree of confidence that by the spring enough of those who are vulnerable will be protected to allow us to get out of this pandemic situation.
“We can see the route out and the route out is guided by this vaccine and that’s why this is such good news for everyone.”
Matt Hancock has said the decision by regulators that the second dose of the Oxford vaccine can be administered up to 12 weeks after the first would speed up the rollout.
“This is important because it means that we can get the first dose into more people more quickly and they can get the protection the first dose gives you,” he told Sky News.
“The scientists and the regulators have looked at the data and found that you get what they call ‘very effective protection’ from the first dose.
“The second dose is still important – especially for the long-term protection – but it does mean that we will be able to vaccinate more people more quickly than we previously could.”
Good morning and welcome to the Evening Standard’s UK Coronavirus live blog for Wednesday, December 30