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The husband and wife behind covid vaccine that could change the worl

Physicians Ugur Sahin and Oezlem Tuereci, who bonded over their love of medical research, are the married couple behind the Covid-19 vaccine that could change the world. 

Mr Sahin came from humble roots to build two billion-dollar companies but still rides to work on his mountain bike.

Now the ‘modest’ 55-year-old physician turned chief executive of a German biotech firm and his wife Oezlem Tuereci, 53, a fellow board member of BioNTech, are being hailed as the ‘dream team’ behind the world’s hopes for a Covid vaccine.

The global race to find a Covid-19 vaccine took a leap forward yesterday when pharma companies Pfizer and BioNTech claimed their experimental jab is 90 per cent effective. Boris Johnson promised the UK will be at the ‘front of the pack’ for the new coronavirus vaccine after the massive breakthrough. 

In other coronavirus developments today: 

  • Care home staff and residents are set to be the first to get a coronavirus vaccine as they are judged to be most at risk from the disease – with Matt Hancock confirming a jab could be rolled out next month;
  • Experts warned a Covid vaccine won’t immediately bring the pandemic to an end and scientists and officials must be honest about how long it will take to roll one out and get life back to normal;
  • Donald Trump accused the US Food and Drug Administration of deliberately delaying work on a coronavirus vaccination in order to thwart his re-election hopes;
  • Redundancies hit a new record in the last quarter as unemployment spiked to its highest level in four years amid the coronavirus crisis;
  • Traffic levels in London and elsewhere around the country are on the rise despite England’s second lockdown, figures revealed.
Husband and wife Ugur Sahin and Oezlem Tuereci are the couple behind the Covid-19 vaccine that could change the world

Husband and wife Ugur Sahin and Oezlem Tuereci are the couple behind the Covid-19 vaccine that could change the world

Trained as a doctor, Mr Sahin became a professor and researcher focused on immunotherapy

Oezlem Tuereci, 53, is a fellow board member of BioNTech. She is the daughter of a Turkish physician who had migrated to Germany

Trained as a doctor, Mr Sahin became a professor and researcher focused on immunotherapy

MATT HANCOCK CONFIRMS NHS IS PREPARING TO ROLL-OUT PFIZER’S VACCINE FROM NEXT MONTH

Matt Hancock today confirmed the NHS is preparing to roll-out Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine from the start of next month, with care home staff and residents at the front of the queue.

The Health Secretary said the first Brits will likely get their hands on the jab ‘within weeks’ of it being given the green-light by the UK’s medical watchdog.

A priority list of who should get the vaccine first was drawn up earlier this year by the influential Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and is now being used as the rollout blueprint.  

After care homes are vaccinated, everyone over the age of 80 and NHS staff will be second in line. Those over 75 will be next in the queue, followed by over-70s, over-65s and high-risk adults under 65 with diseases such as cancer.

They will be followed by moderate risk adults under 65 – including diabetics and asthmatics. Over-60s will be next, with over-55s and over-50s the final priority groups.

The general population will be last to get their hands on a jab and the JCVI says they will be prioritised based on age or underlying conditions.   

Mr Hancock said he had asked the NHS to ‘be ready from the start of December’ for the deployment of the jabs. 

Born in Turkey, Mr Sahin was raised in Germany, where his parents worked in a Ford factory. Trained as a doctor, Mr Sahin became a professor and researcher focused on immunotherapy.

He worked at teaching hospitals in Cologne and the south western city of Homburg, where he met immunologist Miss Tuereci during his early academic career. Medical research and oncology became a shared passion.

Miss Tuereci, the daughter of a Turkish physician who had migrated to Germany, once said in an interview that even on the day of their wedding, both made time for lab work.

Together they honed in on the immune system as a potential ally in the fight against cancer and tried to address the unique genetic makeup of each tumour.

Life as entrepreneurs started in 2001 when they set up Ganymed Pharmaceuticals to develop cancer-fighting antibodies, but Mr Sahin – by then a professor at Mainz university – never gave up academic research and teaching. Ganynmed was sold to Japan’s Astellas in 2016 for $1.4 (£1.06) billion.

Mr Sahin and Miss Tuereci co-founded BioNTech in 2008, with the aim of pursuing a much broader range of cancer immunotherapy tools. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $55 (£41.8) million in the company, which also works on HIV and tuberculosis programmes.

Colleagues describe Mr Sahin as a calm and measured man who avoids checking the company’s share price and is more interested in reading scientific journals.

He and his wife now figure among the 100 richest Germans, according to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

But Matthias Kromayer, a board member of venture capital firm MIG AG, whose funds have backed BioNTech, said: ‘Despite his achievements, he never changed from being incredibly humble and personable.’

He added Mr Sahin would typically walk into business meetings wearing jeans and carrying his signature bicycle helmet and backpack with him.

Matthias Theobald, a fellow oncology professor at Mainz university who has worked with Mr Sahin for 20 years, said: ‘He is a very modest person. Appearances mean little to him. But he wants to create the structures that allow him to realise his visions and that’s where his aspirations are far from modest.’

The PM tonight tried to cool hopes of an early end to lockdown after Pfizer and BioNTech revealed that early results from a massive clinical trial suggest nine out of 10 people who get their jab are protected by it.

The UK could get 10million doses of coronavirus vaccine by Christmas, with expert raising expectations that the life could be ‘back to normal’ by the Spring. 

The FTSE 100 index is on track for its best day since March, with shares in airlines and hospitality firms spiking globally – although Zoom saw its value plunge.

At a press conference this evening, Boris Johnson said the UK was ‘towards the front of the pack’ to get the critical jabs.

However, he warned that the biggest mistake the country could make now was to ‘slacken our resolve’. ‘Now it is more important than ever to follow the rules,’ he said.

Mr Johnson referred to his previous comments about the ‘distant bugle of the scientific cavalry coming over the brow of the hill’ to salvage the situation.

‘I can tell you that tonight that toot of the bugle is louder, but it’s still some way off, we absolutely cannot rely on this news as a solution,’ he said.

‘The biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at a critical moment.’

Pfizer and BioNTech have produced one of the world's leading candidates for a coronavirus vaccine, and have become the first to report early results from their final study

A vaccine trial volunteer in Turkey receives a dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech jab at the end of October

A vaccine trial volunteer in Turkey receives a dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech jab at the end of October

Ugur Sahin, pictured above, came from humble roots to build two billion-dollar companies but still rides to work on his mountain bike

Ugur Sahin, pictured above, came from humble roots to build two billion-dollar companies but still rides to work on his mountain bike

BORIS JOHNSON SAYS BRITAIN WILL BE AT THE ‘FRONT OF THE PACK’ FOR COVID VACCINE

Boris Johnson (pictured at a press conference tonight) updated the public on the optimistic news, but warned that the country cannot 'slacken' the drive to combat the virus

Boris Johnson (pictured at a press conference tonight) updated the public on the optimistic news, but warned that the country cannot ‘slacken’ the drive to combat the virus

Boris Johnson has called on Britons to stick to the rules to get through the second wave of the coronavirus while promising that the UK will be at the ‘front of the pack’ for a new vaccine after a massive breakthrough. 

The PM tried to cool hopes of an early end to lockdown after Pfizer and BioNTech revealed that initial results from a massive clinical trial suggested nine out of 10 people who get their jab are protected by it. 

The UK could now get 10million doses of the vaccine by Christmas – enough for five million Britons – with experts raising expectations that life could be ‘back to normal’ by the spring.

The FTSE 100 index enjoyed its best day since March on the back of the bombshell, with shares in airlines and hospitality firms spiking globally – although Zoom saw its value plunge. 

At a press conference yesterday evening, Mr Johnson said the UK was ‘towards the front of the pack’ to get the critical jabs and that enough had been ordered for a third of the population. 

However, he warned that the biggest mistake the country could make now was to ‘slacken our resolve’. ‘Now it is more important than ever to follow the rules,’ he said. 

Mr Johnson referred to his previous comments about the ‘distant bugle of the scientific cavalry coming over the brow of the hill’ to salvage the situation. ‘I can tell you that tonight that toot of the bugle is louder, but it’s still some way off, we absolutely cannot rely on this news as a solution,’ he said.

‘The biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at a critical moment.’

He added: ‘I just don’t want to let people run away with the idea that this development is a home run, a slam dunk, a shot to the back of the net, yet. There’s a long way I am afraid before we have got this thing beaten.’ 

He added: ‘There’s a long way I am afraid before we have got this thing beaten.’

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam voiced excitement about the Pfizer announcement, saying it boded well for other trial vaccines as they used the same broad approach.

But he also cautioned that ‘one swallow’ did not make a summer and there could not be an easing of social distancing measures yet.

MailOnline understands safety and efficacy data from Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine is on track to be published next week, meaning the actual approval process for the jab could begin weeks ahead of Pfizer – offering Britain a second shot of getting a jab before Christmas.

Pfizer’s chairman hailed the breakthrough a ‘great day for science and humanity’ while independent experts said the results were ‘excellent’ and ‘really impressive’.

However, in America controversy is brewing over the timing of the announcement, with supporters of Donald Trump raising suspicions that it was held back until after the knife-edge election – something the company denies. The firm had originally said it expected to know the results of its trial in October.

Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to apply for approval to give out the jab in the US as soon as possible, but they must wait for long-term safety data to be completed. There are also concerns about the logistical challenges of distributing huge numbers of doses, which must be stored at around minus 70 degrees centigrade.

The vaccine is one of at least seven that have already been pre-ordered by the UK. The jab has to be given in two installments so in theory the 10million due in the UK before Christmas mean five million people could receive it

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech are the first drugmakers to show successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. 

They said that 94 people in a trial of more than 43,000 have so far tested positive for Covid-19, and that over 90 per cent of those did not receive the real vaccine.

They were in the placebo group, where people are given a fake vaccine so that what happens to them can be compared with those who get the real thing. Pfizer’s trial has split the participants half and half across the placebo and vaccine groups.

The companies have not revealed the exact number but a 90 per cent efficacy rate suggests that no more than eight people who got the vaccine caught the virus, compared to 86 of those who received a fake jab.

Before the vaccine is given to millions of Britons, it must be first be approved by the regulatory body — the MHRA, which has already launched a rolling review of all existing data so it can be fast-tracked through the process when the drug giant eventually submits it for approval.

Health chiefs have repeatedly admitted it is possible the UK could get its hands on a vaccine before Christmas and proving the vaccine is safe remains the only hurdle. Regulators must have two months’ worth of data of thousands of injected volunteers.

Pfizer’s next step is expected to be to apply for ’emergency use authorisation’ in the US, for which they will have to go to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once they have two months’ worth of safety data — expected to be complete by the end of this month.

The pharma giant did not mention seeking approval in the UK or Europe in announcing the results but it is likely to submit all of the data at the same time. 

At the press conference this evening, Professor Van-Tam described the vaccine announcement as a ‘huge milestone’ and said it was good news for other future vaccines.

COVID VACCINE WON’T BE A SILVER BULLET AND IMMEDIATELY END THE PANDEMIC, EXPERTS WARN

A coronavirus vaccine won’t immediately bring the pandemic to an end and scientists and officials must be honest about how long it will take to roll one out and get life back to normal, experts say.

Eight out of 10 people may need to have the jab before it becomes effective and getting this done will be a massive task for medical workers.

A report published today has called for realistic timescales to be laid out for the public about how long it might actually take to vaccinate enough people to thwart the spread of Covid-19.

Anti-vaxx conspiracy theories spreading online will make it harder to get rid of coronavirus, it warned, and more than a third of people in the UK already say they aren’t sure whether they would get a vaccine.

And even if take-up is good, lockdowns and social distancing will still have to continue to keep the virus under control while medics scramble to get the vaccine to millions of people. 

There is also the chance that that the jab won’t work perfectly – experts have warned that the first vaccines may not be totally effective, meaning other measures might still be needed.

Oxford University sociologist Professor Melinda Mills and colleagues said clear communication about the vaccine will be a key part of ‘expectation management’ in coming months.

Scientists’ attempts to make vaccines are hurtling forward at unprecedented speed around the world and results from late-stage clinical trials are expected from some teams before the end of 2020.

Experts say that it’s likely at least one working vaccine will be ready to give to people by spring 2021, but it may not work perfectly and won’t be available to everyone.

Britain’s spy agency GCHQ has now launched an online campaign against anti-vaxx conspiracies that are being spread online by users in Russia.

He said: ‘So this is like… getting to the end of the playoff final, it’s gone to penalties, the first player goes up and scores goal.

‘You haven’t won the cup yet, but what it does is it tells you that the goalkeeper can be beaten.’

But Prof Van-Tam said ‘we don’t yet know’ when life can get back to normal or when coronavirus restrictions can start to be lifted.

‘Frankly, we’re in the middle of the second wave, and I don’t see the vaccine making any difference for the wave we are now in,’ he said.

‘I’m hopeful that it may prevent future waves, but this one we have to battle through to the end without a vaccine.’

The deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, has said he is ‘hopeful’ the first coronavirus vaccine could be seen by Christmas.

Pro Van-Tam said there was more to be done before it became available and that it would be for the independent regulator to clear it for use in the UK.

‘This is a very important scientific breakthrough. I am certain of that,’ he said.

‘I am hopeful because of all that, but not yet certain that we could begin to see some vaccine by Christmas.’

He said age would be ‘by far and away’ the most important factor in determining who should receive the vaccine first.

Prof Van-Tam also cautioned that ‘the one thing we know about these vaccines at the moment is that they will prevent illness’ from Covid-19 as diagnosed by a PCR test.

‘We do not know yet if these vaccines will prevent asymptomatic infection.

‘And therefore we do not know if these vaccines will prevent virus shedding, and therefore have an effect on community transmission.’

He said that more work was needed to know whether vaccines only ‘modify disease’ or whether they can also prevent transmission.

Ministers have revealed that the first-in-line to get the jab will be care home residents and staff, followed by over-80s and NHS workers. Physios and paramedics will be trained to deliver Covid jabs to help the NHS carry out its mass vaccination programme through the winter. 

Kate Bingham, chief of the UK’s coronavirus vaccine taskforce, said earlier this month that 10million doses of Pfizer’s jab could be available in Britain by January. 

In an interview with CNBC today, Pfizer chairman and chief executive Albert Bourla hailed ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

‘The hopes of billions of people and millions of businesses and hundreds of governments that were felt on our shoulders, now we can see light at the end of the tunnel,’ he said.

The doses will be rolled out gradually, with production ramping up ‘significantly’ in the middle of next year.

PFIZER’S COVID VACCINE MUST BE STORED AT MINUS 70C IN SPECIAL SUITCASES 

Pfizer’s Covid vaccine must be stored at minus 70C in special suitcase-like storage boxes, sparking concerns that it could delay the roll out.

Hopes of an end to the months of Covid-enforced disruption were raised yesterday when the New York based medical firm announced their vaccine revealed its jab is 90 percent effective.

But concerns have now been raised about the amount of special equipment needed to store the vaccine ahead of its use.

According to reports in the Times, the vaccine must be stored at minus 70C up until the day it is used in order to protect the genetic material inside.

This could make it difficult for GP clinics and care homes to store, the reports add.

To combat the issue, the American drug maker has designed a special suitcase-sized box to help deliver the vaccines.

The British Army will also likely be called in to support the distribution efforts.

But the vaccines must be stored in dry ice – a solid form of carbon dioxide which mixed with other substances can create a cold ice bath of around minus 78C.

And, according to leaked Pfizer documents, the suitcases containing the doses can only be opened for a minute at time and not more than twice a day, the Times reports, making it difficult to supply the doses to patients.

The report comes after chair of the government’s vaccines taskforce Kate Bingham warned last week that providing the vaccine would be challenging.

‘We already started manufacturing some time back. We believe we’ll have 50millon this year and 1.3 billion next year. This will be coming gradually; in the beginning less, then first quarter more, second quarter more, and then we’ll have a significant ramp up in the second half of the year. 

‘Given how effective it is, we’re aware that the demand will be much higher than anything we can produce.

‘We are also thinking right now, outside of the box, to see if there are other ways to increase even further to increase manufacturing capacity. Right now, 1,000 people are dying every day in the US, there is no time to be lost here.’

Dr Bourla went on to say he hopes other pharmaceutical companies are as effective with their own vaccines and that ‘the only competitor is the virus and time.’

The US government’s top infectious disease experts, Anthony Fauci, said the results were ‘just extraordinary’, and suggested other vaccines had strong prospects as they used the same approach.

‘Not very many people expected it would be as high as that,’ he said. ‘It’s going to have a major impact on everything we do with respect to COVID.’

England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said it was ‘reason for optimism in 2021’ but warned it was essential the country continues to ‘suppress’ coronavirus now.

‘Preliminary news that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is effective demonstrates the power of science against COVID,’ he tweeted. ‘We must see the final safety and efficacy data, but it is very encouraging. It is essential we continue to suppress COVID, but it is a reason for optimism for 2021.’ 

Downing Street said: ‘The results are promising and while we are optimistic of a breakthrough, we must remember there are no guarantees.

‘We will know whether the vaccine is both safe and effective once the safety data has been published and only then can licensing authorities consider making it available to the public.

‘In the meantime, the NHS stands ready to begin a vaccination programme for those most at risk once a Covid-19 vaccine is available before being rolled out more widely.’

Nicola Sturgeon said it was ‘positive news’. ‘There’s a good way to go of course but this is news which should give us all some tentative hope today, and let’s be honest, all of us could do with that,’ she told her daily briefing.

Mr Drakeford told a separate press conference: ‘I’m not going to be tempted to suggested that this somehow means there is a magic bullet on the horizon and coronavirus is about to disappear.’ 

US president-elect Joe Biden, who said he had received advance notice of the announcement last night, gave it a cautious welcome, but suggested the end of the battle against the virus was still ‘months away’.  

‘I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope,’ he said.

TRUMP ALLIES CRY FOUL OVER VACCINE TIMING AS HE HAILS ‘GREAT NEWS’

Donald Trump’s allies have raised doubts over the timing of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine announcement, coming just 24 hours after Joe Biden was declared winner of the presidential election.

Son Trump Jr put out a tweet suggested the timing was ‘nefarious’ while Senator Ted Cruz, a close ally of Trump, asked his followers: ‘Why now?’

‘The timing of this is pretty amazing. Nothing nefarious about the timing of this at all right?’ Trump Jr tweeted.

The vaccine was announced on the first working day after Joe Biden was named President-elect on Saturday.

Pfizer had originally said it expected to know the results of its trial in October, but delayed the announcement until the third week of November before announcing it today.

President Trump had repeatedly suggested that a vaccine would be ready before the election, touting Pfizer as one of the leading candidates.

Albert Bourla told the New York Times today that Trump had pressed him in the lead up to the election on when a vaccine would be ready.

‘Every time I spoke with the president I told him that he should not worry about us compromising safety or efficacy, but that we would do it as quickly as science allows us,’ he said.

Kathrin Jansen, a senior vice president at Pfizer and the head of vaccine research and development, also tried to distance the vaccine results from politics by insisting the timing of the trial results was not connected to the election.

She told the New York Times – in an interview published soon after the announcement was made – that she learned of the results on Sunday just after 1pm – just over 24 hours after Biden was declared the winner.

Bourla told the New York Times today that Trump had pressed him in the lead up to the election on when a vaccine would be ready

Bourla told the New York Times today that Trump had pressed him in the lead up to the election on when a vaccine would be ready

The company today announced that the vaccine proved 90 per cent effective in widespread trials, raising the prospect that doses could be ready for the public by the end of the year.

No explanation has been given for the delay in getting the data.

The announcement of a potential vaccine would have been good news for Trump, who was hammered by Biden over his coronavirus response on the campaign trail.

Trump – who has been declared loser of the election but has refused to concede – tweeted out his excitement as the news was announced on Monday.

‘STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS,’ he tweeted.

Trump is challenging the election result, claiming – without evidence – that ‘massive voter fraud’ means Joe Biden ‘stole’ victory from him.

Dr Albert Bourla told employees a month ago he was disappointed that its work was politicised during a presidential debate and tried to reassure US staff that the company would not bend to pressure to move more quickly than was safe.

Despite top US federal health officials repeatedly stating that a vaccine was unlikely to be available widely until 2021, President Trump insisted that a vaccine would be ready before election day, November 3.

During the debate with eventual winner Joe Biden, Mr Trump said he had talked with Pfizer and other companies whose experimental vaccines are furthest along in testing.

‘I’ve spoken to Pfizer, I’ve spoken to all of the people that you have to speak to, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and others. They can go faster than that by a lot,’ he claimed. ‘It’s become very political.’  

‘At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away,’ he added.

Mr Biden stressed it would continue to be crucial to wear face masks for the foreseeable future.

Donald Trump tweeted ‘such great news’ as stock markets soared.

But the announcement was met with scepticism by Trump’s allies, including son Donald Jr and Senator Ted Cruz, who suggested the timing was ‘nefarious’.

‘The timing of this is pretty amazing. Nothing nefarious about the timing of this at all right?’ Trump Jr tweeted. ‘Why now?’ Mr Cruz added.

Dr Bourla had previously said that the company would know whether its vaccine was safe by October, before the presidential election took place.

Kathrin Jansen said the company received the safety data on Sunday, just 24 hours after the election was called for Joe Biden.

No explanation has been given for the delay. Mr Trump had previously claimed that a vaccine would be ready by October, touting Pfizer as one of the leading candidates.

Mr Trump has been declared the loser of the November 3 election, after Mr Biden overturned a lot of his election-night leads when mail-in ballots were counted.

But the Republican has refused to concede and is challenging the result, claiming – without providing evidence – that widespread voter fraud meant Mr Biden ‘stole’ the election.

Scientists said today’s news was a breakthrough in the global race to develop a jab to try and stop the pandemic. 

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Government’s vaccine taskforce, said that other vaccines were now likely to become available in the near future.

‘I am really delighted with this result – it shows that you can make a vaccine against this little critter. Ninety percent is an amazing level of efficacy,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

‘It rolls the pitch for other vaccines because I can’t see any reason now why we shouldn’t have a handful of good vaccines.’

Sir John said organising the distribution of the vaccine would be ‘challenging’ but that the UK was well-placed to benefit once it becomes available.

‘They will obviously start in the US – that’s probably appropriate,’ he said. 

‘BioNTech is a German company so there will be, I am sure, doses made available for Europe.

‘The UK has done a pre-approval agreement to purchase up 30 million doses of this vaccine, so we are very well prepared to get access to this vaccine when it becomes available.

‘The manufacturing challenges are not small, so people need be ready to wait a bit to get it.’

Sir John said he was ‘confident’ life will now be back to normal by the Spring. ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am probably the first guy to say that but I will say that with some confidence,’ he told the BBC Radio 4’s World at One. 

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine is one of many that are in the final stages of clinical trials. The UK’s front-runner, made by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, is expected to produce results within weeks.

Drugs giant AstraZeneca, which owns the rights to the vaccine, confirmed it last week that it expects data on the effectiveness of the experimental jab this month.

Huge clinical trials of the vaccine are ongoing around the world, with tens of thousands of people recruited in the UK, Brazil, South Africa and the US. 

The findings will then be examined by Britain’s healthcare regulator, the MHRA, which will then decide if it can be rolled out for use in the wider community. The NHS is geared up to administer a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as December, if one is proven to work, health officials have promised. 

Early trials of Oxford’s jab showed that it successfully provoked an immune system response in people who received it, and that it appeared to be safe in the short term. 

Dr Paul Hunter, a medicine and infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: ‘If it holds up in the final analysis, that’s a remarkably good result. 

‘There’s always a big question of how long it will last, of course. You might need re-boosting every year, we don’t know. It could all go pear-shaped still.

‘Providing we get this vaccine and it is delivered as planned then it’ll make a very big difference within a matter of months.’

On whether the jab could still fail despite promising early results, he added: ‘It’s always a possibility. Most of the time the final results are in line with the interim results but you can’t guarantee it.

‘I’m really pleased about this result you can almost begin to start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope it’s not an oncoming train.’  

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam voiced excitement about the Pfizer announcement, saying it boded well for other trial vaccines as they used the same broad approach, targeting the spike proteins of the virus - which it uses to invade cells

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam voiced excitement about the Pfizer announcement, saying it boded well for other trial vaccines as they used the same broad approach, targeting the spike proteins of the virus – which it uses to invade cells

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned it was essential the country continues to 'suppress COVID' despite the vaccine news being a 'reason for optimism for 2021'

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned it was essential the country continues to ‘suppress COVID’ despite the vaccine news being a ‘reason for optimism for 2021’

WHO WILL GET THE VACCINE FIRST IN THE UK? AND HOW WILL IT BE ADMINISTERED?

WHO’S FIRST IN LINE? 

Care home residents and staff will be the first to get a Covid-19 vaccine when one is approved, according to government advice published in late September. 

Everyone over the age of 80 and NHS staff will be second in line, guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation says. 

Those over 75 will be next in the queue, followed by over-70s, over-65s and high-risk adults under 65 with diseases like cancer.

They will be followed by moderate risk adults under 65 – including diabetics and asthmatics.

Over-60s will be next, with over-55s, over-50s the final priority groups.

The general population will be last to get their hands on a vaccine and they will most likely be prioritised based on age or underlying conditions. 

HOW WILL IT BE ADMINISTERED?

Physios and paramedics will be trained to deliver Covid-19 jabs to help the NHS carry out its mass vaccination programme through the winter.

Currently, only doctors, pharmacists and some nurses are legally allowed to administer vaccines in the UK.

But new laws passed in October grant more health workers – including midwives and even medical students – to be able to inoculate members of the public.

They are currently being put through ‘robust training’ according to the Government, which it says will ‘save thousands of lives by increasing access to vaccines against killer disease’.

HOW MANY DOSES WILL BE READY?

Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the government’s vaccine task force, said a Covid-19 jab had the ‘possibility of being ready before the end of the year’. 

But she warned that only four million doses of the Oxford vaccine would be manufactured by Christmas – with ten million doses of the Pfizer vaccine potentially being available by January.

It means, at the absolute most, only 14 million Brits will have been vaccinated by Christmas. 

Though the researchers behind Oxford’s jab say there’s only a very ‘small chance’ theirs will be ready by then.

HOW DOES THE VACCINE WORK? 

The jab is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, which uses genetic code from the virus to provoke the immune system. 

The jab is made of lab-generated genetic material that is then injected inside a fatty molecule. The genes are specifically chosen to code for the ‘spike’ protein on the outside of the coronavirus.

When they get into the body, the body makes its own copies of the spike and triggers the immune system in the same way – although milder – that the real virus would.

In the process the immune system learns how to recognise and destroy the spikes so that when it encounters them for real it can kill the virus before it causes Covid-19.  

IS THE VACCINE SAFE? 

All vaccines undergo rigorous testing and have oversight from experienced regulators.

Some believe mRNA vaccines are safer for the patient as they do not rely on any element of the virus being injected into the body.

mRNA vaccines have been tried and tested in the lab and on animals but the coronavirus vaccine will be the first one licensed for use in humans.

The human trials of mRNA vaccines – involving tens of thousands of people – have been going on since early 2020 to show whether it is safe and effective.

Pfizer will continue to collect safety and long-term outcomes data from participants for two years. There are currently around 43,000 people enrolled in the trial of this Covid vaccine, half of whom have had the real jab. 

Scientists across the UK have said the results are cause for optimism but are still only early indications, so it is important to not get carried away. 

The University of Oxford’s Professor Peter Horby, who led the team that proved the steroid dexamethasone could save dying coronavirus patients, said: ‘This news made me smile from ear to ear. 

‘It is a relief to see such positive results on this vaccine and bodes well for Covid-19 vaccines in general. Of course we need to see more detail and await the final results, and there is a long long way to go before vaccines will start to make a real difference, but this feels to me like a watershed moment.’ 

David Nabarro, co-director of Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, said ‘any promising news about a vaccine is great news’, but cautioned that there is still some way to go.

He told the BBC: ‘Everybody who’s hearing and watching this will be saying ‘wow, does this mean that life can go back to normal in the near future?’

‘Life will go back to a new normal, and we’re not there yet.

‘We do need to be following through on all the basic rules that we now know are important for dealing with this virus – our own behaviour, the way in which governments run their health systems, and also unity between nations.

‘And I just want to stress that these principles that we’ve been working for over the last 10 months are still absolutely essential.

‘Even if a vaccine arrives in the near future we’ve got many months of still dealing with the virus as a constant threat that we’ve got to make certain that we continue to do all that is necessary to solve the virus causing major problems.

‘The vaccine will help, but it’s not going to be a complete game changer.’

Professor Brendan Wren, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘A 90 per cent efficacy for a phase 3 trial is excellent for a new vaccine that could make a huge difference, but more confirmatory safety and efficacy studies are required. 

‘The RNA-based vaccine requires two doses and its true efficacy over a longer period of time remains to be evaluated. These are encouraging results and it is a case of so far so good.’ 

Professor Eleanor Riley, an immunology and infectious disease expert at the  University of Edinburgh, added: ‘At face value, this is exceptionally good news: a vaccine that is 90 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic cases of Covid-19 and with millions of doses available by the end of the year.

‘However, the full data set on which the claim is based has not yet been released and so we don’t know exactly what has been found. 

‘The two companies are at pains to point out that the trial participants are ethnically diverse, which is good, but say nothing about the age of people in the trial. If a vaccine is to reduce severe disease and death, and thus enable the population at large to return to their normal day-to-day lives, it will need to be effective in older and elderly members of our society. 

‘We also know nothing yet about the severity of cases that were seen in the trial, whether infection or infectiousness was prevented, or how long the immunity is expected to last.

‘But I think we have reason to be cautiously optimistic.’ 

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health, University of Southampton, told ITV the results appear ‘excellent’ but he urged caution.

‘This cautiously sounds like an excellent result from the phase three trials, but we should remain a little cautious,’ he said.

But he warned that if the vaccine is now approved for use by regulators there could still be serious logistical difficulties.

‘If this Pfizer vaccine candidate is licensed, there will be difficulties around logistics and distribution,’ Dr Head added.

‘It has been reported that the vaccine requires storage at -70 degrees centigrade and that is not necessarily routinely available in most health centres even in the UK, let alone globally.’

Optimism was the reaction of the stock markets when the news broke, with the UK’s FTSE surging to its highest level since August and some companies seeing boosts of more than a third. 

Global stock markets surged on hopes of an end to the coronavirus crisis today after the vaccine news broke.

PFIZER’S COVID-19 VACCINE TIMELINE AT A GLANCE

March 17: Pfizer and Germany firm BioNTech announce they are co-developing a Covid-19 vaccine.

The companies team up after previous collaborations on flu jabs.

July 13: Their vaccine is granted fast-track status by the FDA.

It gives regulators in the US the ability to review data from studies into the jab in real time, so it can be approved and rolled out quicker.

July 20: Phase one trial on 12 adults show the vaccine stimulates antibody response.

July 27: Phase two trial is launched in a much larger group of people and compared to a placebo to see if the jab is safe.

August 12: Results from the study of 45 adults find the jab is well tolerated with few side effects and stimulates the immune response thought to be needed to fend off Covid-19 infection.

Mid-August: Phase three trials are launched in the US. These trials see researchers administer the jab then wait to see if people get infected naturally in the community.

September 12: Phase three trials are expanded to include 44,000 people at more than 120 clinical sites across the US, Brazil, South Africa and Argentina.

October 6: The European Medicines Agency agrees to initiate a rolling review, which the FDA had done months earlier.

October 30: The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) also undertakes rolling review. It opens the door for the US, UK and Europe to get doses by the end of 2020.

November 9: Early results from phase three suggest nine out of 10 people who get their jab are protected by it.  

Sometime in December: Full results from the phase three trials are expected. This will paint a clearer picture about how effective the jab will be.

December 25: Kate Bingham, head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, has said Britain could have 10million doses of Pfizer’s jab ready to be rolled out by Christmas. 

In the US, already on a high after the election delivered a clear result, the Dow and the S&P hit new records after opening up 5.3 per cent and 3.6 per cent.

Pfizer shares, listed in New York, saw a bump of more than 8 per cent.

However, some companies that have fared well during the panic – such as Zoom – saw their values fall. 

The FTSE 100 index was up more than 5.5 per cent on the successful trials.

Airline group IAG was up 35 per cent, while Rolls Royce saw a 30 per cent spike.

Cinema and hotel chains also received a massive boost as investors digested the optimistic signs.

In Europe, France’s CAC 40 jumped 5.6 per cent to 5,239, while Germany’s DAX surged 5.1 per cent to 13,112. 

Pfizer and BioNTech said they have so far found no serious safety concerns and expect to seek US emergency use authorization later this month.

If authorized, the number of vaccine doses will initially be limited. Many questions also remain including how long the vaccine will provide protection. 

However, the news provides hope that other vaccines in development against the novel coronavirus may also prove effective.

‘Today is a great day for science and humanity,’ said Dr Bourla in a statement. 

‘We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.’

Pfizer expects to seek broad US emergency use authorization of the vaccine for people aged 16 to 85. 

To do so, it will need to have collected two months of safety data on around half of the study’s roughly 44,000 participants, which is expected to be completed in late November.

‘I’m near ecstatic,’ said Dr Bill Gruber, one of Pfizer’s top vaccine scientists. ‘This is a great day for public health and for the potential to get us all out of the circumstances we’re now in.’

The efficacy rate is well above the 50 per cent effectiveness required by the US Food and Drug Administration for a coronavirus vaccine.

To confirm its efficacy rate, Pfizer said it will continue the trial until there are 164 Covid-19 cases among participants. Given the recent spike in US infection rates, that number could be reached by early December, Dr Gruber said.

The data have yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal. Pfizer said it would do so once it has results from the entire trial.

Pictured is the first patient to have received the Pfizer vaccine, at the University of Maryland in May this year. Since then, more than 43,000 people have been enrolled in the ground-breaking trial

Pictured is the first patient to have received the Pfizer vaccine, at the University of Maryland in May this year. Since then, more than 43,000 people have been enrolled in the ground-breaking trial

YES, THERE ARE NIGGLES BUT THIS REALLY IS A HISTORIC DAY, SAYS PROFESSOR HUGH PENNINGTON 

When I saw the newsflash about the vaccine yesterday, I was immediately reminded of another – and admittedly very different – scientific achievement.

The Manhattan Project in World War II led to the development of the atomic bomb.

Now whatever your view of the destructive use of nuclear weapons – and tragically more than 200,000 people died at Nagasaki and Hiroshima – it is widely accepted that without their deployment that conflict would have continued.

Hundreds of thousands of service personnel and civilians would have died, with more misery and suffering for millions worldwide.

I believe that the global potential of this vaccine – to save lives and reduce suffering – is on a similar scale.

In both cases, researchers understood the basic science from the outset, but had to produce results fast while millions of lives hung in the balance.

What has been achieved from a standing start really is an incredible feat.

The fact that the new vaccine appears to give initial protection in 90 per cent of cases is better than even the greatest optimist could have predicted.

Of course, we have to understand that the crisis isn’t over yet. It’s still early days, these are interim results and trials are continuing.

Nor was yesterday’s statement the result of a peer-reviewed paper in a scientific journal – instead a press release.

We are also some way off regulatory approval (in the US, Europe and the UK) for the new vaccine.

But that should not detract from the impact of the announcement.

The results are significant, for two reasons: firstly, because the vaccine appears to be effective, and secondly because there are to date no reports of side effects.

Given the urgency of the situation, I do not expect red tape to hold up proceedings. But I also expect the authorities to guard against recklessness.

This, after all, is a new kind of vaccine. It contains a fragment of the Covid-19 virus’ genetic material.

This is inactive but can stimulate the production of protective antibodies.

It represents a significant advance in molecular biology but, because it involves a novel delivery method, we don’t yet know how well it will work. It simply hasn’t been tried before.

It is also more complicated to administer than the flu vaccine, for example, which involves just a single dose. The Covid-19 vaccine will require two jabs, three weeks apart.

Immediately, that complicates the process and presents logistical problems for GP surgeries, hospitals and other sites, including schools and care homes, where the vaccine is administered.

To make matters more difficult still, the vaccine has to be stored and transported in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -70C, facilities beyond most hospital pharmacies and high street chemists.

The biggest unanswered question about the new vaccine is how long it will protect against Covid-19. Trials suggest it offers 90 per cent immunity but this may wane over time.

Flu jabs also give good initial protection but that declines over the course of a flu season to around 50 per cent. Will that prove to be the case with the Covid-19 vaccine?

We won’t know for a while but even at 50 per cent it will still offer life-saving protection, if those most at risk are among the beneficiaries: people over the age of 60 and those made vulnerable by other medical conditions.

That would not only save lives but dramatically reduce hospital admissions – to the benefit of the NHS which would not then have to focus so much of its resources on Covid-19 victims at the expense of non-Covid patients.

While it represents a major breakthrough – the ‘toot of the cavalry’s bugle’ according to Boris Johnson – Pfizer/BioNTech is unlikely to be the silver bullet for Covid.

But we should not forget that it is the only vaccine on the horizon. More than 170 projects worldwide are actively developing a coronavirus vaccine.

The first trial recognised by the World Health Organisation began back in the spring, just 60 days after Chinese scientists shared a breakdown of the Covid virus’ genetic sequence.

Researchers at Oxford University working on the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine have also announced that in preliminary tests it is inducing a safe immune response.

All of this builds on decades of painstaking research. The search for a flu vaccine began in earnest in the 1930s in the wake of the Spanish Flu pandemic which killed 50million people.

Perseverance brought success from the 1950s onwards.

Now we have two pretty good preventatives for flu: a drop administered up the nose for children, and an injection in the arm for the over-65s with a booster that increases the immune response.

Inevitably, the new Covid-19 vaccine – indeed any new vaccine – will stir up the anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists. Propaganda against vaccines is nothing new.

In the 19th century, cartoons circulated suggesting the smallpox jab caused people to grow horns like cows. Smallpox has now been eradicated, and I’ve never met any humans with horns.

As ever, the best response to such critics is for medical science to keep their methodology and ethical standards as high as possible.

The rewards that come with an effective vaccine will be great – soaring company profits and acclaim for individual scientists. Perhaps Nobel Prizes beckon.

But it is the impact globally that counts: untold lives saved, economies resurrected, pubs, bars and restaurants buzzing again, churches and theatres open once more… and a nation where it’s possible for us to see our friends and loved ones without restriction again.

The thought of that is like the sun coming out.

Hugh Pennington is Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen

Pfizer and BioNTech have a $1.95billion (£1.45m) contract with the US government to deliver 100 million vaccine doses beginning this year. They have also reached supply agreements with the European Union, the UK, Canada and Japan.

To save time, the companies began manufacturing the vaccine before they knew whether it would be effective, and they now expect to produce up to 50million doses, or enough vaccine to protect 25million people, this year.

Pfizer said it expects to produce up to 1.3billion doses of the vaccine in 2021.

The vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which relies on synthetic genes that can be generated and manufactured in weeks, and produced at scale more rapidly than conventional vaccines.

Moderna Inc, whose vaccine candidate employs similar technology, is expected to report results from its large-scale trial later this month. 

The mRNA technology is designed to trigger an immune response without using pathogens, such as actual virus particles.

Pfizer alone will not have the capacity to immediately provide enough vaccines for the entire United States. The Trump administration has said it will have enough supply for all of the 330million US residents who wish to be vaccinated by the middle of 2021.

Meanwhile, Tories are urging an end the blanket lockdown before December 2 amid claims Boris Johnson believes he was bounced into the extreme curbs.

Senior MPs said the PM should not keep the restrictions in place for the full month just to ‘maximise the pain’, amid early signs that the surge is already levelling out.  

Mr Johnson reluctantly signed off the measures for England last weekend after being warned by Government scientists that deaths could rise to 4,000 a day – four times the peak seen in April.

The decision was rushed out with minimal Cabinet consultation after news of the warning, and the PM’s reaction to it, was leaked to news organisations, including the Daily Mail.

However, the 4,000-a-day figure has since been widely discredited and Government scientists have been forced to correct other dire warnings used to inform the lockdown decision.

Some data last week suggested that the second wave may have levelled off or even peaked before the lockdown was introduced last Thursday.

Yesterday another 156 Covid deaths were reported across the UK, down from 162 a week earlier. 

Some 20,572 cases were recorded, a fall of 2,682 on the previous Sunday’s total of 23,254. 

One Cabinet minister told the Daily Mail that Mr Johnson felt he had been pushed into the decision.

‘I think he is concerned that he may have been bounced into it,’ the source said. 

‘He was really, really cross about the leak because at that point a different decision might still have been made.

‘There is also concern that some of the information used to inform the decision now seems to be crumbling. 

‘In fact the figures seem to be suggesting things were getting better before the lockdown began – we are being shut down for a month when we did not need to be.’

The source predicted the episode would harden the PM’s attitude against any attempt to renew the restrictions. 

‘It means a third or fourth lockdown is very unlikely,’ the source said. ‘All of this goes against his political inclinations.’

Downing Street last night denied that the PM felt he had been bounced into the lockdown.

A Government source said: ‘It is true that we were furious about the leak, but the PM is absolutely clear that the evidence showed these measures were necessary.

‘Even if you put the 4,000 figure to one side, there was plenty of other very concerning data, such as the hospitalisation figures, that made it very clear he had to act.’

But Tory MPs seized on the claim to demand an early end to the draconian restrictions. 

Tory former minister Sir Desmond Swayne told MailOnline that carrying out a U-turn should not be a problem, given recent rethinks on free school meals and other issues.

‘We’ve not shown any reluctance to just reverse decisions that we thought were wrong in the recent past,’ the MP said.

‘If we think that the wrong decision has been made then clearly it should be reversed as soon as possible. The less damage done the better. No point in hanging on for the full month just to maximise the pain.

‘Particularly when all the signs are starting to show that actually according to the data we have already turned the corner.’

Another senior MP warned that calls for a shortening would become irresistible if the trend in infections continued.

‘One thing is certain, and that’s if the decline continues the government should be looking at relaxing the restrictions earlier than December 2,’ they said. 

‘The economy cannot remain frozen like this.’ 

Fifty Tory MPs rebelled on the lockdown legislation and rebel sources believe the revolt could top 100 if there is any attempt to extend it.

The PM has publicly stated that it will ‘expire’ on December 2, with England then reverting to a system of regional restrictions.

In another front of the battle, Sir Keir Starmer today demanded a rethink on the 10pm pubs curfew after the lockdown ends in England, insisting it had not worked’.

The Labour leader raised the prospect that he could withdraw support for the controversial policy – leaving Boris Johnson at the mercy of a major Tory rebellion.

The hospitality industry, along with non-essential retail, has been closed down until December as part of the national squeeze.

But there is already furious wrangling over the shape of the curbs after the measures lapse.

In an LBC phone-in this morning, Sir Keir said he supported what the government had been ‘trying to achieve’ with the curfew, but it ‘didn’t work’.

He suggested that closing times should be spread out so people did not pour out on to the streets all at once, and indicated that off-licences should be shut at the same time to discourage after-hours partying.

‘I do think we get the chance to look again at the 10pm curfew,’ Sir Keir said.

‘We saw people crowding out at 10pm. There is a smarter way of doing this. I think that if you were to stagger that differently so people left at different times it would be far better.

Who will get the Covid vaccine first, how many doses has Britain bought and when will it be rolled out? Everything you need to know about Pfizer’s breakthrough jab

WHAT DO THE NEW TRIAL RESULTS SHOW? 

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech said that 94 people in a trial of more than 43,000 have so far tested positive for Covid-19, and that over 90 per cent of those did not receive the real vaccine.

This suggests the vaccine is 90 per cent effective and that no more than eight out of those 94 people actually received the real jab. 

Most of the people who tested positive were in the placebo group, where people are given a fake vaccine so that what happens to them can be compared with those who get the real thing. 

The companies did not reveal the exact split of how many people had had the vaccine and how many had not. 

The results were revealed in a corporate press release, which is not considered transparent enough for independent review, but they will be published in full later this year when the study is more complete.    

This phase of the trial will continue until at least 164 participants have tested positive, the researchers said.

While previous studies have been extremely promising – suggesting, for example, that various vaccines boosted the immune system’s response to Covid – this is the first time any jab has been shown to actually ward off the virus. 

That the Pfizer jab is 90 per cent effective is far better than scientists dared hope. 

WHY THE PFIZER VACCINE MIGHT NOT BE A SILVER BULLET 

LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE

Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, which makes trying to ship and distribute the shots a logistical headache.

The vaccine must be kept at -70C (-94F) which rules out storing it at most hospitals or pharmacies, where jabs are normally kept and administered.

Pfizer’s shot will likely need to be stored in laboratories or specialist hospitals. 

To transport it around the country will also require expensive refrigerated lorries.

There are also rumblings from insiders that the UK does not have enough of these lorries or enough medical-grade glass vials and PPE for the mass rollout of a vaccine across the country. 

Last month the logistics advisory group 7Bridges – which will be one of the main firms tasked with helping officials mass-vaccinate Brits – said it still hadn’t heard from No10 about a plan for the rollout of the first successful jab candidate.

Philip Ashton, chief executive of 7Bridges, said it was possible that health workers and high risk people could get their hands on a jab by the year’s end.

But it could take up to two years to inoculate the entire nation, he claimed.

The logistics expert does not believe the UK has enough ‘cold chain’ lorries for the transportation of the vaccine doses at present.

The ‘cold chain’ is a system of storing and transporting vaccines at recommended temperatures from the point of manufacture to the point of administration.

POTENTIALLY LOW UPTAKE

There are concerns that a significant amount of people will refuse to take a coronavirus vaccine.

A major University College London study in late September estimated a fifth of Britons will turn down a potential jab.

If crudely extrapolated to the entire country it could mean 13million people refuse to take it.

Researchers found a ‘concerning level of misinformation around vaccines’ which could significantly affect uptake once a Covid-19 vaccine is approved.

In the largest survey of its kind, 22 per cent of 17,500 people asked said they were unlikely to be vaccinated with 10 per cent strongly opposed to it.

Just half (49 per cent) of people asked said they ‘very likely’ to be immunised, while three-quarters (78 per cent) said they considered it ‘likely’.

Scientists think 70 per cent uptake will be enough to achieve ‘herd immunity’ – a form of indirect protection from that occurs when a high percentage of a population has become immune to a disease.

So even if 22 per cent turn it down, community protection might still be possible. 

But if public confidence in a vaccine dwindles more then it raises serious concerns. 

MINK MUTATED COVID-19

A mutated version of coronavirus caught from mink might render Pfizer’s vaccine less effective than its touted 90 per cent figure. 

Scientists believe the virus jumped from farm workers to mink in the summer before being passed back to humans. 

As it crossed between species, a mutation occurred on its ‘spike’ protein, which it uses to enter human cells. 

This mutation of the protein appears to make the strain more resistant to antibodies, disease-fighting proteins made and stored by the immune system. 

Pfizer’s jab trains the body to produce a wave of these antibodies by exposing it to lab-generated genetic material created to imitate what scientists have found inside the coronavirus.

But if the new variant of Covid-19 becomes the prevailing strain then there are fears the vaccine could be less effective.

Ian Jones, a virologist from the University of Reading, told MailOnline the possibility of the mink strain being able to duck the body’s antibody response was a ‘formal possibility’.

He said: ‘In theory, the mink form, which has mutations in the spike protein, could then evade the immune response generated to the vaccines currently in development and form Covid-19-2. 

‘There are a lot of reasons why this would not happen easily, but it is a formal possibility which is why the mass cull has taken place. 

LIMITED DOSES

The UK’s vaccine tsar Kate Bingham said last week Britain has the capacity to produce 10million doses of the Pfizer jab by the end of the year.

But the way the vaccine works is by administering two doses almost a month apart – meaning only 5million Brits will get access.

There are almost a million frontline NHS staff across the UK.

They have been highlighted as top priority for the vaccine by UK health officials because they are the most likely to catch the virus or pass it to already sick people.

It means only a few million vulnerable or elderly Britons will actually get access by Christmas. 

The 10million touted doses are also a best-case scenario and it is very likely that issues in the supply chain could hamper the country’s ability to deliver that many doses.   

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR ME?

The general public will not benefit from the vaccine – if it is approved – for weeks or months to come, but today’s results mean there is a ray of hope that the pandemic could end.

Coronavirus cannot yet be stopped without a vaccine, and one that prevents infections or at least reduces the risk of death could spell the end of social distancing.

In the UK, officials have bought 40million doses of the vaccine and they could be available to the most vulnerable people within months if the study ends well.  

WHEN COULD IT BE READY TO GIVE TO THE PUBLIC?

Pfizer and BioNTech have said they will try to apply to the Food and Drug Administration in the US for approval within the next month, provided their final results are as positive as today’s announcement suggests.

This is because Pfizer is an American company, based in New York. BioNTech is a German company so it is likely the same procedure will be followed in the European Union. 

It will then be a question of how long it takes regulators to decide, and of how long delivering all the doses takes if it is approved, but it could be just weeks into December.

Before the vaccine is given to millions of Britons, it must be first be approved by the regulatory body — the MHRA, which has already launched a rolling review of all existing data so it can be fast-tracked through the process when the drug giant eventually submits it for approval.  

The UK now has the power to approve its own vaccine without waiting for a licence from Europe, because of new laws passed during the pandemic, or an EU approval would also allow Britain to use the jab. 

Kate Bingham, chief of the UK’s vaccines taskforce, said last week that it was possible the jab could be ready in Britain before Christmas.

She said there was a ‘possibility of being ready before the end of the year’.

HAS THE UK ALREADY GOT DOSES OF THE VACCINE?

Downing Street today said it has ordered 40million doses of the double-dose vaccine, which would be enough to give to 20million people. 

Kate Bingham said last week that 10million doses of the Pfizer vaccine could be available in Britain by the end of year.

It means that, at the absolute most, only 10million Brits will receive the vaccine by Christmas, but the vaccine is given in two shots so this could actually be five million.

A further 30million doses would then be produced and sent to Britain next year – the timescale for this is not yet clear.  

HOW DOES THE VACCINE WORK? 

The jab is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, which uses genetic code from the virus to provoke the immune system.  

Traditional vaccines tend to use damaged or destroyed versions of the real virus to achieve the same effect – if this one works, it will be the first mRNA jab ever to be proven in humans. 

The vaccine is made of lab-generated genetic material which is created to imitate what scientists have found inside the coronavirus. 

The genetic material (mRNA) is then injected into the body inside a fatty molecule. 

The genes are specifically chosen to code for the ‘spike’ protein on the outside of the coronavirus, which are what the virus uses to bind to human cells and infect them.

When the molecules get into the body, they deliver the mRNA into living cells and trick the body into making its own copies of the spike protein.

When these appear in the bloodstream they trigger the immune system in the same way that the real virus would, although the effects are milder because there are no actual viruses driving the infections, so the situation is under the body’s control.

In the process, the immune system learns how to recognise and destroy the spikes so that when it encounters them for real it can kill the virus before it causes Covid-19.

IS IT SAFE?

Pfizer and BioNTech say they have not encountered any safety issues during their trials so far, which have been going on for six months.

This suggests with a good degree of confidence that the vaccine is safe for humans at least in the short term. 

Long-term safety can only be proven when huge numbers of people have had the vaccine and had their health tracked for years or even decades afterwards, so scientists cannot yet be 100 per cent sure that no side effects will ever appear.

However, the current phase three trial includes more than 43,000 people from different backgrounds all over the world, all of whom are being closely monitored after having the vaccine.

If people suffer side effects of the vaccine that are more common or more severe than in the placebo group – who received a fake vaccine for comparison – this will be investigated in detail by the researchers.

Pfizer and BioNTech will not be given permission to distribute the jab without showing independent regulators that they have concrete data to prove the jab is as safe as possible. 

Regulators will not accept a licensing submission until at least half the people in the trial have been vaccinated for at least two months. That data is expected in a fortnight. Only then will the true safety profile be known. 

WHAT ARE SCIENTISTS STILL TESTING FOR?  

The trial is still going and will likely not end completely for years to come, because the more data scientists have, the more confident they can be about their results.

In the short term, the researchers must continue to gather safety data and proof that the vaccine is actually working.

The team said they will keep the current phase of the trial open until at least 164 people have been infected with the coronavirus.

They will then compare the infection rate in the vaccine group to that of the placebo group, who got a fake vaccine, to see how much of a difference the jab makes.

They will want to see that significantly fewer people got sick after having the jab, compared to people who had the fake one. Early data suggests this is the case. 

WHICH VACCINES HAS THE UK SECURED DEALS FOR? 

1. GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur: 60million doses 

The Government revealed on July 29 it had signed a deal with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur

If the vaccine proves successful, the UK could begin to vaccinate priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased risk from coronavirus, as early as the first half of next year, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said. 

Human clinical studies of the vaccine will begin in September followed by a phase 3 study in December. 

The vaccine is based on the existing technology used to produce Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccine. Genetic material from the surface protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is inserted into insect cells – the basis of Sanofi’s influenza product – and then injected to provoke an immune response in a human patient.  

2. AstraZeneca (manufacturing University of Oxford’s): 100million

AstraZeneca, which is working in partnership with Oxford University, is already manufacturing the experimental vaccine after a deal was struck on May 17.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is leading the Oxford team, is confident the jab could be ready for the most vulnerable people by the end of the year.

Her comments came after the results from the first phase, published in The Lancet on July 20, showed promise.

The team have genetically engineered a virus to look like the coronavirus – to have the same spike proteins on the outside – but be unable to cause any infection inside a person. This virus, weakened by genetic engineering, is a type of virus called an adenovirus, the same as those which cause common colds, that has been taken from chimpanzees. 

3.  BioNTech/Pfizer: 30million 

US drug giant Pfizer – most famous for making Viagra – and German firm BioNTech were revealed to have secured a deal with the UK Government on July 20.

It reported positive results from the ongoing phase 2/3 clinical trial of one called BNT162b1 on July 1.  The company is still running phase 2 trials at the moment.

Pfizer’s vaccine is one called an mRNA vaccine, which do not directly inject bits of the virus into the body but send genetic material.

mRNA vaccines programme the body to produce parts of the virus itself by injecting the body with a molecule that tells disease-fighting cells what to build. The immune system then learns how to fight it.

4. Valneva: 60million 

The Government has given Valneva — whose vaccine is understood to be in the preclinical stages of development — an undisclosed amount of money to expand its factory in Livingston, Scotland. 

While the Government revealed a 60million dose deal on July 20, the company said it had reached agreement in principle with the UK government to provide up to 100million doses. 

Valneva’s jab is an inactivated whole virus vaccine, meaning it injects a damaged version of the coronavirus itself into the body.

The virus has been destroyed in a way that makes it unable to cause infection, but the body still recognises it as a dangerous intruder and therefore mounts an immune response which it can remember in case of a real Covid-19 infection. 

5. Janssen (Johnson & Johnson): 30million

The Government has agreed to buy 30million doses of a vaccine made by Janssen if it works.

Officials have agreed to help the company in its development of the jab by part-funding a global clinical trial. The first in-human trials of Janssen’s jab began in mid-July and are being done on adults over the age of 18 in the US and Belgium.

The jab is named Ad26.COV2-S, recombinant, and is a type of jab called a viral vector recombinant vaccine.

Proteins that appear on the outside of the coronavirus are reproduced in a lab and then injected into the body to stimulate an immune reaction.

The ‘Ad’ part of the vaccine’s name means it works using an adenovirus – a virus best known for causing the common cold – as a vehicle to transport the coronavirus genetics into the body.

6. Novavax: 60million

Britain has ordered 60million doses of a vaccine being developed by the US-based company Novavax. It will help to fund late-stage clinical trials in the UK and also boost plans to manufacture the vaccine in Britain.

Novavax’s jab, named NVX-CoV2373, showed positive results in early clinical trials.

It produced an immune response in 100 per cent of people who received it, the company said, and was safe and ‘generally well-tolerated’. 

Novavax’s candidate is also a recombinant vaccine and transports the spike proteins found on the outside of the coronavirus into the body in order to provoke the immune system. 

7. Imperial College London: Unknown quantity

Imperial College London scientists are working on Britain’s second home-grown hope for a jab. The candidate is slightly behind Oxford’s vaccine in terms of its progress through clinical trials, but is still a major player.

The UK Government is understood to have agreed to buy the vaccine if it works but details of a deal have not yet been publicised. 

Imperial’s jab is currently in second-phase human trials after early tests showed it appeared to be safe. 

Imperial College London will try to deliver genetic material (RNA) from the coronavirus which programs cells inside the patient’s body to recreate the spike proteins. It will transport the RNA inside liquid droplets injected into the bloodstream. 

Safety data is still being collected, too. 

Before Pfizer and BioNTech can apply to US regulators for permission to use the jab on the public, they must produce two months’ worth of data for at least half of the study’s 38,955 participants who have had both doses of the vaccine.

This data must show that the vaccine can be given safely to large numbers of people without any serious side effects. 

Vaccines are not ruled out by any side effects, and regulators will be looking for proof that the benefits of the jab outweigh any potential risks.  

WHO WILL GET THE JAB FIRST IN THE UK?

Care home residents and staff will be the first to get a Covid-19 vaccine when one is approved, according to Government advice published in late September. 

Everyone over the age of 80 and NHS staff will be second in line, guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation says. 

Those over 75 will be next in the queue, followed by over-70s, over-65s and high-risk adults under 65 with diseases like cancer.

They will be followed by moderate risk adults under 65 – including diabetics and asthmatics.

Over-60s will be next, with over-55s and over-50s the final priority groups.

The general population will be last to get their hands on a vaccine and they will most likely be prioritised based on age or underlying conditions. 

HOW WILL THE VACCINE BE ADMINISTERED IN THE UK?

The UK Government has announced that it is expanding the group of people who will be able to administer vaccines, as well as potentially setting up walk-in or drive-in centres in public locations such as car parks outside GP surgeries.

Physios and paramedics will be trained to deliver Covid-19 jabs to help the NHS carry out its mass vaccination programme through the winter.

Currently, only doctors, pharmacists and some nurses are legally allowed to administer vaccines in the UK.

But new laws passed in October grant more health workers – including midwives and even medical students – to be able to inoculate members of the public.

They are currently being put through ‘robust training’ according to the Government, which it says will ‘save thousands of lives by increasing access to vaccines against killer disease’.  

ARE THERE LOGISTICAL PROBLEMS WITH BUYING SO MUCH VACCINE?

Experts have raised concerns that storing the vaccine in Britain might be difficult.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine may have to be stored at temperatures below -70°C (-90°F) to make sure that it remains stable and can still work when injected.

If they rise to temperatures higher than this at any point between the lab and wherever they are administered from they could become chemically unstable and fail to work properly.

Dr Michael Head, global health expert at the University of Southampton, said: ‘It has been reported that the vaccine requires storage at -70 degrees centigrade, and that is not necessarily routinely available in most health centres even in the UK, let alone globally.’

And Dr Al Edwards, a professor of biomedical technology at the University of Reading, added: ‘The task of producing substantial amounts of a new vaccine and disturbing widely will be a challenge, not least for this particular formulation where ensuring that it can be appropriately frozen until needed and must not be allowed to thaw in transit.’ 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR LOCKDOWNS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING?

Social distancing and lockdowns – known as ‘non-pharmaceutical interventions’ – will not come to an end as soon as a vaccine is proven to work.

It would take months to vaccinate enough people for it to actually impact on the spread of coronavirus among the public, especially if people who are more likely to be in care homes or shielding are the first ones to receive the jab.

Experts do not know exactly what proportion of people will need to be vaccinated to develop herd immunity, which is when the virus cannot cause outbreaks any more. 

It is thought to be higher than two thirds, which means over 42 million people will need to have a working vaccine. 

The UK has not ordered enough of Pfizer’s vaccine to rely on that completely – although more could likely be bought in future – but it has ordered more than 300million doses of other vaccines that could work.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, said on BBC Radio 4 this afternoon: ‘I am really delighted with this result – it shows that you can make a vaccine against this little critter. Ninety percent is an amazing level of efficacy.

‘It rolls the pitch for other vaccines because I can’t see any reason now why we shouldn’t have a handful of good vaccines.’

Asked if people could look forward to a return to normal life by the spring, Sir John replied: ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am probably the first guy to say that but I will say that with some confidence.’

WHAT DO SCIENTISTS SAY ABOUT THE PROGRESS?

Scientists from across the UK have today praised the results of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, saying it could spell an end to the pandemic.

Oxford University’s Professor Peter Horby, who led the team that proved the steroid dexamethasone could save dying coronavirus patients, said: ‘This news made me smile from ear to ear.’

While Dr Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline he was ‘really pleased about this result’.

‘You can almost begin to start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope it’s not an oncoming train.’

Despite offering a glimmer of hope, other scientists have said the results are still only early indications, so it is important to not get carried away.

Professor Brendan Wren, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘A 90 per cent efficacy for a phase three trial is excellent for a new vaccine that could make a huge difference.

‘But more confirmatory safety and efficacy studies are required.

Professor Eleanor Riley, an immunology and infectious disease expert at the University of Edinburgh, added: ‘At face value, this is exceptionally good news.

‘However, the full data set on which the claim is based has not yet been released and so we don’t know exactly what has been found.’  

Sir John Bell, medicine professor at the University of Oxford, welcomed the news but said the distribution of the vaccine would be ‘challenging’.

‘They will obviously start in the US – that’s probably appropriate,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One. ‘BioNTech is a German company so there will be, I am sure, doses made available for Europe.

‘The UK has done a pre-approval agreement to purchase up 30 million doses of this vaccine, so we are very well prepared to get access to this vaccine when it becomes available.

‘The manufacturing challenges are not small, so people need be ready to wait a bit to get it.’

HOW DOES THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY JAB DIFFER?  

Oxford’s is an adenovirus vector vaccine, which contains a weakened version of a chimpanzee cold virus that has been genetically changed to trigger the production of immune cells – antibodies and T-cells.

COULD MORE THAN ONE VACCINE BE USED BY THE UK? 

Definitely. The Government has orders in place for 300 million doses from six different companies. If more than one is approved, the joint virus committee will decide which people will get which vaccines, depending on the trial data for different age groups. It is unlikely that two vaccines will be used in combination for the same person, at least in the near future – more research will be needed to see if that boosts protection or not.

DOES THIS MEAN AN END TO THE CURSED CORONAVIRUS?

No – and the Government was keen last night to stress adherence to social distancing rules. But if the vaccine is as effective as the results suggest it may mean an end to this phase of the pandemic. Some scientists last night suggested it might even mean a return to normality by spring.

HOW MANY PEOPLE NEED TO BE VACCINATED BEFORE WE TRULY KILL OFF COVID? 

To see off the virus we need to achieve ‘herd immunity’, which will mean the virus can no longer spread from person to person and simply dies out. In normal circumstances every person with Covid affects three others – giving the infamous R-rate of 3. For the virus to die out the R rate needs to be reduced to 1. In order to achieve that, 60 per cent of the population would need to be vaccinated. Experts believe that if one or two more vaccines come through – and if they have anything like the same potential – that will be achievable in a year.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

The vaccine will be provided by the NHS for free. It is unclear how much the Government’s deal with Pfizer is worth, but the firm is reported to have struck deals with other nations for around £15 a dose. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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