Every adult in the UK could be vaccinated for coronavirus by Easter under a three month mass roll-out plan.
Oxford university scientists working on a promising Covid-19 jab are anticipating it will be approved by early next year.
Government sources told The Times that they expected a full programme, which would exclude children, could take six months or less after approval, and would probably be significantly quicker.
The newspaper states rules are being drawn up to allow a much wider group of healthcare staff to give the jabs, with drive-through vaccination centres planned to cope with the huge logistical challenge of administering vaccines to tens of millions of people.
Within weeks training will reportedly begin for physiotherapists, midwives and other health professionals who are being drafted in to administer the vaccine. The armed forces are also likely to be called in to help.
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‘We are looking at closer to six months and it is likely to be far shorter than that,’ a Government source said.
However, others in Government are being more cautious, emphasising that while priority groups could be done quickly, vaccinating every adult could take longer.
A Royal Society report suggested it could take up to a year to successfully distribute a dose of the vaccine to every adult in the UK.
The Department of Health disputed the claims, saying the study ‘fails to reflect the enormous amount of planning and preparation that has taken place across government to quickly roll out a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine’.
The statement added: ‘We are confident we have adequate provision or transport, PPE and logistical expertise to deploy a Covid-19 vaccine across the country as quickly as possible.’
The mass roll-out will depend on which coronavirus vaccine is successful and when that will be approved.
The vaccine being developed by Oxford University with the pharmaceutical giant Astrazeneca is seen as the front-runner in the race to find an effective jab.
Human trials have been going on since April and there are hopes it could be approved by regulators by Christmas.
If it is, 600,000 jabs would have to be administered per day to give two doses of the vaccine to each of Britian’s 53 million adults within six months.
To do the same in three months would require 1.2 million a day and means the roll-out could be complete by the beginning of April, in time for Easter.
The Government has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, which are being manufactured before it has been shown to be successful.
That means that if it is approved, the NHS is in a position to begin mass vaccination almost immediately.
Scientists on the trial are hopeful results will show that the vaccine prevents at least 50% of infections, the threshold for success.
Ministers are planning to change the law to allow a vaccination programme to begin before the end of the year if UK regulators believe it to be safe, even if it is not yet approved by the European Medicines Agency.
It’s thought that care home residents and staff will be the first to receive it, followed by those aged over 80 and NHS frontline staff.
After that, it will be the over 65s, followed by younger adults deemed to be high risk.
Over 50s would then follow, with younger adults being made to wait longer.
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