German coronavirus vaccine 'could be given to Brits before Christmas'

A German coronavirus vaccine may be ready before Christmas, beating Oxford University’s AstraZeneca jab, according to reports.

UK government officials believe a verdict on whether the Pfizer-backed vaccine, being developed by German firm Biontech, works is expected in the coming weeks, The Times reported.

The government has bought up 30 million doses of the drug, which Pfizer’s chief executive Albert Bourla told the newspaper is in its ‘last mile’ of development. It is said the company plans to file for emergency authorisation of the vaccine from regulators in late November after it has enough safety data.

The vaccine is one of six currently in trials that the government has secured early access to, including the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab.

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Pfizer said it hopes to have produced 100 million doses globally by the end of the year if it passes trials, with a further billion doses made in 2021.

It comes amid reports the UK is only buying enough vaccines to protect the most vulnerable to Covid-19, dealing a blow to hopes of herd immunity in the near future.

The UK is planning to initially vaccinate only 30 million people, less than half the population, according to Sky News.

It means some restrictions would still be needed as the virus would continue to spread.

Advice issued earlier this year by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said over-50s, people with underlying health issues and frontline healthcare workers should be prioritised if a vaccine is developed.

The committee said young and people healthy should only be given the jab once the risks and benefits have been further assessed.

In deals that the UK government has done with manufacturers since the advice was issued, either 30 million or 60 million doses have been bought, depending on whether the vaccine requires one or two shots.

Before the committee’s recommendations, the government bought 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and this is the only one available in greater numbers.

It also comes as a major study by Imperial College London suggested nearly 100,000 people are catching coronavirus every day in England.

Scientists said the country is at a ‘critical stage’ in its battle against the virus, adding that current measures are ‘not sufficient’.

It was announced on Wednesday that Nottinghamshire will be entering Tier 3 restrictions from midnight on Friday.

It means a further 1.1 million people will be living under England’s toughest coronavirus measures.

David Mellen, leader of Nottingham City Council, said although he was sorry for the impact on citizens and businesses in the area, he was ‘very concerned’ that the number of people needing hospital treatment was ‘rising quickly’.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is preparing to reveal how a new five-tiered system of restrictions to tackle the virus will apply across the country.

Decisions on which levels will apply to each region will be announced on Thursday.

Meanwhile Wales recorded its highest amount of coronavirus deaths in a single day since April, with 37 in the previous 24 hours.

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