Care home residents and staff will be the first to get a Covid-19 vaccine when one is approved, according to fresh government advice.
Everyone over the age of 80 and NHS staff will be second in line, updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation states.
The body, which consists of 20 top scientists, advises ministers on all vaccines. It admitted its guidance for any UK Covid-19 vaccination scheme is likely to change in the future.
Matt Hancock previously pledged that Britons with underlying conditions would be near the front of the queue for any jab. But millions living with heart disease or other ailments that raise their risk of dying of Covid-19 won’t be vaccinated until everyone over the age of 65 is inoculated, according to the new guidance.
It comes as another drug giant launched the final-stage trial of its coronavirus jab. Novavax will test its double-dose vaccine – which the UK government has already bought 60million doses of – on 10,000 volunteers in the UK.
It is the second vaccine in the UK to go into phase 3 trials, behind Oxford University’s candidate which moved into efficacy studies over the summer.
Everyone over the age of 80 and NHS staff will be second in line, updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation states
The government hopes a jab will be ready in the first half of next year, but there will still need to be measures in place while people are injected.
The severity of the restrictions – such as social distancing rules – will hinge on how successful the vaccine is.
WHO WILL GET A COVID-19 JAB FIRST?
Under the proposed ranking by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the vaccines will be rolled out in the following order:
- older adults’ resident in a care home and care home workers
- all those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers
- all those 75 years of age and over
- all those 70 years of age and over
- all those 65 years of age and over
- high-risk adults under 65 years of age with underlying health woes
- moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age with underlying health woes
- all those 60 years of age and over
- all those 55 years of age and over
- all those 50 years of age and over
- rest of the population (priority to be determined)
The JCVI guidance said frontline health and social care workers are at increased risk of being exposed to Covid-19, as well as transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus to vulnerable Britons in hospitals and care homes.
The committee labelled health workers as the highest priority for vaccination and told health chiefs doing so would also help ‘maintain resilience in the NHS and for health and social care providers’.
People with underlying health conditions, who are at increased risk dying from Covid due to their weakened immune systems, should be next in line, the JCVI says.
The body said that it continues to evaluate evidence on risk factors, adding that ‘early signals have been identified of other potential risk factors, including deprivation and ethnicity’.
Brits living in the poorest parts of Britain have been twice as likely to die from the disease as those in the wealthiest regions.
People from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds (BAME) have also been disproportionately hit by the pandemic.
But experts warned today the first coronavirus vaccine will not be a ‘silver bullet’ and is unlikely to stop people catching the disease.
Scientists advising the government said it may only reduce people’s symptoms and be partially effective, as they stress the need for caution when a jab is eventually found to work and is rolled out.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has set the bar at 40 to 60 per cent efficiency – similar to the flu jab. But the Oxford University team leading the charge for a vaccine set a minimum target of 50 per cent.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (pictured with Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance this week) has set the bar at 40 to 60 per cent efficiency – similar to the flu jab
EU’s deal to buy AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 at a discount ‘will mean countries have to cover compensation costs if the jab causes negative side effects’
European countries will have to cover compensation costs if Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine causes any side effects, as part of the EU’s deal to secure the experimental jab at a discounted price, it was claimed today.
The European Union is said to have struck a deal with AstraZeneca – which owns the rights to the experimental shot – that diminishes the UK drug giant’s liability if people fall ill after being inoculated.
EU countries will pay the reduced price of £2.20 per dose of the Covid-19 vaccine once rigorous scientific trials wrap up and the jab is deemed to be safe by health regulators, likely in early 2021.
Britain has already secured 100million doses of the jab for an undisclosed fee, but AstraZeneca will be expected to shoulder the costs of any negative side effects among Britons.
The EU’s deal was struck in August, before late-stage trials of the vaccine were ground to a halt earlier this month when a British volunteer was hospitalised with serious spinal swelling thought to have been triggered by the jab.
But investigators ruled there was no evidence the patient’s condition was directly caused by the vaccine and trials have restarted in the UK, Brazil, Indian and South Africa.
Unexpected side effects after a drug has been green-lit by medical regulators are rare because the process for approval is so rigorous. But the speed at which the vaccine is being pursued – vaccines normally take 10 to 15 years to develop – may increase the likelihood of unforeseen problems.
People in the UK are entitled to a one-off tax-free payment of £120,000 if they become ‘severely disabled as a result of a vaccination against certain diseases’, according to the Government.
But patients need to prove in the courts that their condition was a direct result of a vaccine – which can often be difficult.
They said one that can cut symptomatic coronavirus cases by half would be hugely valuable. But it would mean millions of Britons would, in theory, still be vulnerable to suffering the life-threatening disease.
Boris Johnson has previously acknowledged that a mass-testing programme is the UK’s ‘only hope’ of avoiding another national lockdown, in the absence of a vaccine. It is why Number 10 has pledged to eventually carry out 10million tests a day.
A government source told the Times: ‘It seems the most likely outcome in the short to medium term is to find a vaccine, or two doses of a vaccine, that reduces the severity of symptoms. It’s possible we might need several vaccines, but we are backing a lot of horses.’
Head of vaccines at the Wellcome Trust Charlie Weller said the first vaccine will probably need to be phased in alongside other restrictions.
He added: ‘We need to manage everyone’s expectations on what these first front-runners of vaccines can actually do.
‘There’s a lot of hope, understandably, resting on a vaccine that is going to be this wonderful one dose [that will give] full lifetime immunity and move us back to normality the next day, but it’s not going to be the perfect solution; it’s not going to be the silver bullet.’
It comes as a new phase-three trial for a vaccine created by US biotech company Novavax was started on Thursday, marking the second phase-three trial to take place in the UK.
As part of the research, 10,000 people will be invited to take part in the late stage study.
Phase-three trials require a large number of people to test the safety and effectiveness of the potential vaccine across a community.
They will be held across the country including in Greater Manchester, London, Glasgow and Belfast.
Sixty million doses of the vaccine have been secured by the Government, to be manufactured in Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham, if it is successful.
The volunteers had previously signed up to the NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry, created in July to allow people to express their interest in taking part in a clinical trial and to be contacted by researchers.
More than 250,000 people have since signed up.
Researchers and the Government are calling for more people to volunteer for the studies, particularly people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, those with underlying health conditions and people over 65.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: ‘I am incredibly proud of the 250,000 volunteers who have signed up to play their part in the global fight against coronavirus.
‘Our scientists and researchers are working day and night to find a vaccine that meets the UK’s rigorous safety standards, but we need even more people from all backgrounds and ages to sign up for studies to speed up this life-saving research.
‘The more people that sign up, the quicker we can find a safe and effective vaccine, defeat this virus and protect millions of lives.’
Oxford University’s vaccine candidate – one of the frontrunners to be the first approved in the West – has been being trialled on tens of thousands of people in the UK, Brazil, US, India and South Africa for months.
Results are expected early next year and the team hope to have the jab rolled out to the most at-risk patients by Spring.
WHICH VACCINES HAVE 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.
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.