Covid vaccine: who will get the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine first - and when will it be ready?
The first effective vaccine prevents more than 90% of people from getting coronavirus, analysis shows
A new coronavirus vaccine has been found to be 90 per cent effective and could begin to be distributed by the end of this month.
The vaccine was developed by pharmaceutical company Pfizer in collaboration with tech firm, BioNTech.
A UK government spokesman said it is "optimistic about a breakthrough" but urged people to remember "there are no guarantees".
Who will get the vaccine first?
Once the vaccine begins to be rolled out in the UK, different groups will be prioritised access to it, based on their levels of risk.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has examined data on who suffers the worst outcomes from coronavirus and who is at highest risk of death.
Its interim guidance says the order of priority should be:
– Older adults in a care home and care home workers
– All those aged 80 and over and health and social care workers, though they may move up the list
– Anyone 75 and over
– People aged 70 and over
– All those aged 65 and over
– High-risk adults under 65
– Moderate-risk adults under 65
– All those aged 60 and over
– All those 55 and over
– All those aged 50 and over
– The rest of the population, with priority yet to be determined.
Is the vaccine safe?
The vaccine has been tested on more than 43,000 people in six countries, with no safety concerns raised.
While studies will continue and further approvals need to be granted, it is expected that the companies will begin distributing the vaccine in the next few weeks.
The UK government was the first to strike an agreement for the new Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and has ordered 40 million doses, including 10 million which are due by the end of December pending regulatory approval.
In order for the vaccine to be effective people will need to take two doses, meaning the UK will not have enough for everyone.
However, more vaccine trials are likely to be announced in the coming months and are expected to produce good results.
How does the vaccine work?
The type of vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNtech is known as messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.
Unlike conventional vaccines, mRNAs do not use a weakened version of the virus to stimulate immunity, but use the virus’ genetic code instead.
Once the mRNA vaccine is injected, it enters cells and tells them to create antigens.
These antigens are recognised by the immune system and help it to prepare to fight off coronavirus.
Because mRNAs do not use the virus in their production, this means the vaccines can be produced much faster and cheaper than a conventional vaccine.
Some experts believe they are safer for patients, as they do not contain the virus.