BRITS are set to be first in the world to get vaccinated against Covid — with three jabs now expected before Christmas.
Officials estimate the drugs will slash coronavirus deaths by up to 90 per cent.
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Government adviser Prof Sir John Bell told MPs he was confident we can “hit the New Year with two or three vaccines”.
Meanwhile, dozens of areas across the UK will be targeted with mass Covid tests giving results in just 15 minutes — paving the way for an end to lockdown.
Some 67 towns and cities are to be offered 600,000 pregnancy-style checks in the latest boost to the fight against the killer virus.
The news comes as government adviser Sir John Bell said he expects the world-leading Pfizer vaccine to be ready for use by mid-December.
He also revealed two more may be available before Christmas — and the Health Secretary promised Brits will be “right at the start” of vaccinations.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we hit the New Year with two or three vaccines, all of which could be distributed.
Matt Hancock confirmed that the NHS and Army are on standby to rollout immunisation for millions from December 1.
Officials estimate coronavirus deaths can now be slashed by up to 90 per cent, with life returning to normal next year.
Sir John told the Commons Science Committee that the ground-breaking Pfizer success means “many others” are likely to work.
He said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we hit the New Year with two or three vaccines, all of which could be distributed.
"And that’s why I’m quite optimistic of getting enough vaccinations done in the first quarter of next year that by spring things will start to look much more normal than they do now.”
The UK has ordered 40million doses of the Pfizer jab, with 10million ready for use this year.
But regulators cannot approve it until safety data is submitted this month.
Trials on a second jab, developed by the University of Oxford, are expected to report back in weeks, with 100million-plus doses already on order.
Mr Hancock said it is “absolutely a possibility” that immunisation could start before Christmas.
Speaking on the BBC Today programme, he added: “We have secured early access, and we will be among the first countries in the world to be able to start to do this. We may end up being right at the start.”
The Sun last week revealed that GPs are being primed to deliver the jab seven days a week, including Christmas and Boxing Day.
We have secured early access, and we will be among the first countries in the world to be able to start to do this. We may end up being right at the start.
NHS bosses have told practices they will need “capacity to administer minimum of 975 doses per week or greater” — with medics paid £12.58 for each.
Sir John, who advises ministers on Covid testing, said he is 70 to 80 per cent confident all vulnerable Brits will be immunised by Easter.
However he warned it is dependent on officials not “screwing up” the distribution.
The Pfizer jab — proven to be 90 per cent effective — must be stored super-chilled at around -70C (-94F) before it is given to the patient.
Care home residents and staff, health and social care workers, plus all over-80s will be first in line.
Kids will not get it, and uptake for adults will not be mandatory.
Prof Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London, said the vaccine will allow grandparents to hug their grandchildren again.
The scientist, who sits on a Sage advisory committee, said: “This gives me great hope that we’ll actually be able to get more or less back to normal by next summer.”
Mass testing will also be rolled out to millions in the next few weeks to provide a “route out of lockdown”.
Super-quick DIY Covid tests will be sent to up to 750,000 NHS staff in a bid to prevent silent spread and protect patients.
More than 600,000 swabs will be also given to councils across England this week to screen at-risk locals. After this, they will get enough tests every week to cover ten per cent of the local population.
University students will also be regularly swabbed, with ministers promising as many £5 pregnancy-test style kits “as possible” over the next month.
Colleges have been ordered to switch all lessons to online by December 9 so students can self-isolate if needed in time for Christmas.
It comes as Britain reported 532 new deaths from Covid yesterday, the highest official daily figure since May.
It is also a sharp rise from the 194 on Monday, but may be due to a lagged reporting of deaths from the weekend.
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