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Just a month ago, it was hard to feel optimistic about the battle with Coronavirus. Many countries around the world were struggling to find a way out, and the UK’s main exit strategy – test and trace – was facing a myriad of operational challenges. You could be forgiven for thinking that we’d be stuck in lockdown forever.

But all that changed several weeks ago when Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they had created the first successful vaccine for protecting against the virus. Soon after, Moderna and Oxford University had breakthroughs too.

As ConservativeHome has written before, these are unprecedented scientific developments that deserve their own film one day. The Government also deserves huge credit for its belief in vaccines. Early on it secured 350 million doses from seven different vaccine candidates, in a gamble that seems – at this stage – to have paid off. Without further ado, we look at some of the details around the current ones, and when they can be expected to roll out.

Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Early analysis suggests the vaccine is 95 per cent effective in preventing Covid.
  • The Government has ordered 40 million doses, and expects to receive 10 million by the end of this year, which will protect five million people. The majority of doses are expected in the first half of 2021.
  • The Government is waiting for Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA; the independent regulator) to assess the vaccine. It could be approved as soon as this week, and the NHS has reportedly been told to prepare for mass vaccinations from December 1.
  • The vaccine has to be stored at minus 70 degrees celsius, and you need two doses of it. 
  • It costs £15 per dose.
Moderna
  • The Moderna vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective, and was tested in a trial that included many high risk and elderly people.
  • The Government has ordered five million doses, which means the NHS will be able to vaccinate 2.5 million people
  • If the vaccine is approved by regulators, then it could be delivered to the UK and Europe in spring 2021.
  • The vaccine can be stored for six months at -20C, the temperature of most freezers, and can stay for up to 30 days in a standard fridge. The dose is three times larger than Pfizer’s and you need two doses.
  • It costs £25 per dose.
Oxford University and AstraZeneca
  • Oxford University and AstraZeneca found in their study that when participants were given a half-sized dose and full-sized second dose, they were 90 per cent protected from Covid-19. 
  • The Government has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine. There are currently four million doses ready to go, but the vaccine has to be approved, which is expected to happen in the coming weeks.
  • Although the Oxford vaccine has a lower efficacy than Pfizer/ BioNTech and Moderna’s, it is much easier to store – as it can be left at fridge temperature – meaning it can be distributed throughout the world. 
  • It costs £3 per dose.
Some other details:
  • The first people to get the vaccines will be care home residents and staff, as well as people over 80. The Government then plans to offer the vaccine to everyone else based on age, from oldest to youngest, by spring 2021. It has not been decided whether people with underlying health conditions and from ethnic minority backgrounds will be prioritised.
  • The NHS is recruiting 30,000 volunteers to help administer the jabs.
What we don’t know so far:
  • Whether the vaccines prevent disease transmission (i.e. can someone who has had the vaccine pass Covid-19 onto others). Some suspect that the vaccines will be able to reduce the duration and level of infectiousness, but it remains to be seen how this impacts on community transmission.
  • How many times someone will need to have a vaccine (other than the initial dose). It is not known how long immunity lasts. Perhaps we will move to a model similar to flu jabs, whereby vulnerable groups get a new one each year.
  • Whether we will need everyone vaccinated. Much of this depends on how vaccines affect transmission. If they stop or significantly reduces Covid-19 infection, then not as many people should need vaccinations.
Lastly, here is a list of the vaccines the Government has ordered so far:
  1. BioNTech/Pfizer for 40 million doses
  2. Oxford/AstraZeneca for 100 million doses
  3. Moderna for five million doses
  4. GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur for 60 million doses
  5. Novavax for 60 million doses
  6. Janssen for 30 million doses
  7. Valneva for 60 million doses