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Speaking at a joint press conference from Downing Street, Professor Wei Shen Lim said the UK has one of the “best immunisation systems in the world” and set out the process the country will take to vaccinate the population. He said the first phase of the coronavirus vaccination programme would protect those most at risk and health and social care workers, adding he hoped that in the first phase of the vaccine programme 99 percent of the most clinically vulnerable would be covered.
He told the Number 10 briefing that from then on the programme would see a banding system, whereby those in the oldest age groups are vaccinated first.
Dr Lim said: “Residents in care homes for older adults and care home workers are the highest priority, following that are those 80 years of age and above alongside frontline health and social care workers.”
He continued: “Then comes those 75 years above, followed by those 70 years of age and above, alongside people who are clinically extremely vulnerable because of specific health conditions.”
He said the banding system would continue with people aged 16 to 64 years with underlying health conditions that also put them at risk.
“The prioritisation order then continues down the age groups, until those aged 50 years and above are included.”
Dr Lim said in the second phase community teams should “work together” to mitigate against healthcare inequalities and take a more “flexible approach” to the prioritisation of vaccine deliver to the remaining age groups.
The checks conducted by the MHRA on the Pfizer vaccine are “equivalent to all international standards”, Dr June Raine has said.
“The public can be absolutely confident that the standards that we have worked to are equivalent to standards around the world,” the MHRA chief executive told a No 10 briefing.
Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed said people given the vaccine would become immune seven days after the second dose, although there would be partial protection 12 days after the first dose.
Also speaking at the press conference, Dr June Raine, head of the regulator which approved the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, said no corners had been cut in assessing its safety.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) chief told a Downing Street briefing: “The safety of the public will always come first.
“This recommendation has only been given by the MHRA following the most rigorous scientific assessment of every piece of data so that it meets the required strict standards of safety, of effectiveness and of quality.”
The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, paving the way for vaccination to start next week.
The jab has been shown in studies to be 95% effective and works in all age groups.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, enough to vaccinate 20 million people with two doses, given 21 days apart.
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Around 10 million doses are expected to be available for use in the UK in the coming weeks for priority groups, including healthcare workers, with 800,000 doses arriving next week.
A list of who will receive the vaccine first will be set out later on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it is “fantastic” news, tweeting: “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had approved the jab after “months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts” from the regulator.
He said they have concluded that the vaccine has “met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness”.
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