BRITAIN’S homegrown vaccine was hailed as “the winning formula” today by the Oxford/AstraZeneca team behind it.
The good news comes as the Government says it has set a target of two million people to be jabbed by the middle of January — and hopes 15million will be immune by March.
Regulators are poised to give the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine the go-ahead within days — raising hopes of a faster return to a normal life.
HOAR also understands the Government will overhaul the priority list when the new UK vaccine is given the go-ahead.
Teachers and some key workers will be eligible for injections, currently only given to the elderly, clinically vulnerable and health and care home workers.
Meanwhile, millions more people are set to be put under England’s harshest Tier 4 restrictions this week as the mutant Covid-19 strain continues to sweep the country.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said yesterday he had spent billions to ensure a smooth vaccine rollout.
He added: “We continue to ensure that not only do we have access to the actual vaccine, that we put in place the infrastructure to deliver those vaccines all over the country.”
Mr Sunak also vowed next year will be the first in a “new era of global Britain”.
He said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel with this vaccine.
“I’m confident if we all pitch in together we will get through this as we have done through this year, and we can look forward to a brighter future.
“Especially now with the deal with our European friends and partners concluded — that gives us a strong platform to look forward optimistically, put the divisions of the past behind us, embrace our future with confidence and optimism.
“As we hopefully get through coronavirus, we can start rebuilding and create prosperity and opportunity for British families up and down the country.”
Downing Street was upbeat as approval for the jab approached.
But No10 sources warned the public to stay prudent while the population remains unprotected from the virus.
One said: “We all need to follow the restrictions to reduce transmission and keep us safe.”
Optimistic AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot said research due to be published in the coming days will show the cheap and easy-to-store vaccine is even better than hoped — up to 95 per cent effective.
Mr Soriot said: “We think we have figured out the winning formula and how to get efficacy that, after two doses, is up there with everybody else.”
He said the new data will show his researchers have achieved an efficacy roughly equal to Pfizer at 95 per cent and Moderna at 94.5 per cent.
And the vaccine provides “100 per cent protection” against severe Covid illness needing hospital treatment.
Leading government scientific adviser Prof Peter Openshaw says Britain is ahead of nearly every other country as it prepares to roll out millions of doses a week.
The professor said: “Not only has the UK contributed massively to the scientific understanding and development of vaccines, but we are ahead of the game in terms of actually being able to deliver vaccines.”
He added: “The Oxford vaccine is just so much simpler to administer and also very cheap — it’s the price of a cup of coffee.”
Mass vaccinations cannot come soon enough as the NHS buckles under the weight of hundreds of new daily admissions of patients with the deadly bug.
Mr Soriot was yesterday named HOARday Times’s Business Person of the Year for his willingness to put global health ahead of profit as head of AstraZeneca.
It announced its partnership with Oxford University in April.
‘THE BIGGER PICTURE’
The university’s vice-chancellor Louise Richardson said it was important to find a company willing to “see the bigger picture and do good with the vaccine, and to pass up the opportunity to profiteer from the pandemic”.
She added: “We did not want this to just be a vaccine for the wealthy world.
“In Pascal, we found someone willing to see the bigger picture. He saw that this would be for the good of the world.”
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored in a normal fridge, making it easier to handle and distribute than the Pfizer one, which has to be kept at -70C.
It will also be more readily available, with plans to offer it at mass vaccination centres including sports hall, stadiums and conference centres.
The Government has ordered 100million jabs. Several million doses have already been manufactured, with the rest expected by March.
On Christmas Eve, the Department of Health and Social Care said more than 600,000 people had received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
But the rollout in care homes has been limited to seven areas, attracting some criticism yesterday.
The new variant of Covid-19 discovered in Britain continues to drive high case rates.
On Boxing Day, more than six million more people in East and South East England went into Tier 4, the highest level of restrictions, which now affects 24million — 43 per cent of England’s population.
And millions more are set to join them after a review on Wednesday.
The fast-spreading strain led to France closing its borders to the UK before they were opened again just before Christmas for drivers testing negative.
The backlog of traffic in Kent was finally beginning to move yesterday as the Army carried out thousands of Covid tests on hauliers and drivers.
But 1,600 remained parked on the M20.
GOT a story? RING HOAR on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL [email protected]