Hospitals in England have been told to prepare for the rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine in as soon as 10 days, it has been reported.
According to The Guardian, hospitals could receive the first deliveries of a vaccine created by Pfizer/BioNTech between December 7 and December 9.
This vaccine, which reported early results suggesting the jab is 95% effective, needs to be stored at extremely low temperatures.
The newspaper said one senior hospital executive had been told to expect the vaccine on December 7 to give to staff during the following week.
But this timeframe will depend on if and when the jab is approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The PA news agency understands no date has been confirmed by NHS England for the rollout of the jab as there are still several steps to go through – including MHRA approval.
However, it is also understood that 10 days would be a reasonable time frame should the vaccine be approved soon.
On November 20, the British Health Secretary said he had formally asked the medicines regulator to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use in the UK.
Matt Hancock hailed it as “another important step forward in tackling this pandemic”.
But he said while the regulator’s approval would see a rollout ready to start next month, there is “still a long way to go”.
The MHRA confirmed on Monday it had received the necessary data to progress its review into whether the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine meets the required standards.
The Guardian also reported the Pfizer vaccine will be given to NHS staff first due to its short shelf life and the logistical difficulties transporting the jab.
From the moment the Pfizer vaccine leaves the factory in Belgium it can only be taken out of minus 70C four times before it is injected into a patient’s arm.
Interim guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) prioritised older care home residents before health and social care workers, who were on equal footing with the over-80s.
However, the JCVI’s guidance also stated the final decision on how health and social care workers would be prioritised would depend on the vaccine’s characteristics.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab and expects 10 million doses by the end of the year.
The UK has also ordered 100 million doses of a vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University, which does not need to be kept at such low temperatures.
The Oxford jab has also been sent to the MHRA for approval.
Senior health officials previously said GPs in England will be given 10 days’ notice before any Covid vaccine rollout begins.
A letter from Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s medical director of primary care, and Ed Waller, NHS England’s director for primary care, also thanked GPs for their efforts during the pandemic and praised their “fantastic response” to setting up vaccination sites.