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Matt Hancock confirms Covid vaccination programme could start 'next month' as he discusses families gathering at Christmas

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that a Covid-19 vaccination could be rolled out from next month if the independent regulator signs it off.

Responding to the news that the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine is shown to be 70% in large scale trials, Mr Hancock told Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid that the news was "very positive."

"The 70 percent effectiveness overall, in some formulations of doses it has evidence of up to 90 percent effectiveness and crucially no hospitalisations, so even those who get symptoms in this trial didn’t need to go into hospital. So that is very positive news. We are not quite there yet, we have to ensure the independent regulator looks at the data… of course, we need to get it rolled out. We have got 100 million doses for this on order, and if all goes well and if the regulator signs it off then we should start the vaccination programme next month," he said.

"We are not just rolling this out with GPs, they, of course, will be important in the same way that each year they roll out the flu vaccination. This year the biggest flu vaccination programme in history. The timing of this means the point at which the flu vaccine programme ends, that is more or less when the Covid vaccine programme will start subject to the final sign off of these vaccines.”

Asked how he will ensure that the vaccination programme will run smoothly amid concerns from GPs over the pressure the rolling out of the programme will put on surgeries, Mr Hancock responded: "In addition to that we are going to have large scale vaccination sites where people can go to that are put up and built especially for this vaccination programme that will be run by hospitals rather than by GPs, to make sure that we can use all of the assets of the NHS to vaccine as quickly as possible. The challenge I've given the NHS is to be able to vaccinate as quickly as the pharmaceutical companies can manufacture the vaccine.”

During the interview, Mr Hancock explained that he doesn’t think allowing families to gather at Christmas will lead to deaths.

He said: "Well, I don’t think it will do that. We haven’t finally agreed a set of rules around Christmas but I essentially agree that it needs to be careful, it needs to be balanced. We are trying to put an agreement together across the whole of the UK as so many people live in different parts of the UK and typically travel at Christmas. It’s this balance Piers about people wanting to see their family at Christmas, my god I know that, at the same time keeping people safe."

He continued: “It will take a few months to roll it out. The bulk of the rollout will be in the new year even if we get the approvals rapidly from the regulator… so we all have to stick by the rules and keep doing the things we know we have to do, the social distancing, the basics of ‘hands, face and space’, we’ve got to keep doing them to keep them safe in the meantime."

"Christmas is undoubtedly the most important holiday of the year and it’s a matter of balance. Of course, I understand those concerns, but I understand this has been really hard for people. Personal responsibility is an important part of this but the balance that you talk about, that is what those discussions are trying to seek and to get an agreement with the different devolved administrations as well," he added. 

Before the interview came to an end, Mr Hancock was asked by Piers about whether MPs should take a pay rise.

Mr Hancock refused repeatedly to say whether he would reject taking a pay rise saying: “I’ll promise to commit to coming back on this programme immediately after that decision comes through and I’ll let you know.“ 

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