'Bulk' of Covid-19 vaccine rollout could be done by next summer, says Matt Hancock

The "bulk" of the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine could occur before next summer, the Health Secretary has said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, wearing a Protect the NHS branded face mask, during a visit to kitchens at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. Picture: Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA Wire
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, wearing a Protect the NHS branded face mask, during a visit to kitchens at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. Picture: Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA Wire

Matt Hancock said that his "central expectation" is the majority of the rollout of a vaccine could be under way in the first half of 2021.

But he refused to rule out any possibility that people could start receiving a vaccine this side of Christmas.

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Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme the vaccine programme was "progressing well".

Asked how soon NHS staff could be injected with a vaccine, he said: "Well, we're not there yet.

"The vaccine programme is progressing well.

"We're in very close contact with the leading candidates.

"On my central expectation, I would expect the bulk of the rollout to be in the first half of next year."

Asked if there could be some this year, he said: "Well, I don't rule that out, but that is not my central expectation."

Clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines are ongoing.

Some have speculated that two vaccine candidates will report data to regulators this year.

When asked about reports that hospitals are preparing to vaccinate staff, Mr Hancock said: "We want to be ready in case everything goes perfectly."

"But it's not my central expectation that we'll be doing that this year.

"The true answer to your question is, we don't know.

"We don't know when the first vaccine will be available but my central expectation is in the first half of next year.

"Nevertheless, we're doing the preparatory work now for how that will be rolled out - the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations has set out the order of priority; and we're doing the logistical work - led by the NHS working with the armed services who are playing an important role in the logistics of it to ensure that we have that rollout programme ready.

"But, you know, preparing for a rollout and actually having the stuff to roll out are two different things.

"It's obviously something that we want to happen as soon as safely can be done. And as fast as safely can be done, but we are not there yet."

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