Covid: '70-80% chance' UK's most vulnerable will be vaccinated by Easter and normality will resume, says expert

Video report by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke

There is a 70 to 80% chance that the UK's most vulnerable will be vaccinated against coronavirus by Easter next year, and by spring "things will start to look much more normal", a member of the government's vaccine taskforce has said.

Sir John Bell, who is also regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said he "wouldn't be surprised if we hit the new year with two or three vaccines", following news of a successful vaccine trial by US drug firm Pfizer and German partner BioNTech.

The professor, speaking at a Commons committee on Covid-19, said he is "quite optimistic" that enough people will be vaccinated in the first quarter of 2021 that "by spring things will start to look much more normal than they do now."

He said it's likely the UK will resume to normality by Easter, so long as the government deliver on the vaccine distribution.

Responding to a question from former health secretary Jeremy Hunt on the chances of the UK's most vulnerable being vaccinated by Easter, he said: "I think we've got a 70/80% chance of doing that.

"That's provided they don't screw up distribution of the vaccine - that's not my job - but provided they don't screw that up it will all be fine."

Professor Sir John Bell on his hopes for a Covid vaccine:

Contradicting Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Professor Sir John said it was "unlikely" that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine would be administered by GPs.

Mr Hancock told ITV News that the vaccine, which has been found to be 90% effective, said a distribution plan involves GPs, vaccine centres, and taking the vaccine to some of the most vulnerable people in their own homes or care homes.

"If we get two or three vaccines, which I suspect we will by the new year, then they will have different routes of distribution in my view.

"Some of them you administer just like the flu vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine needs a cold chain at minus 80.

ITV News Science Editor on the latest vaccine developments

"The idea that that'll be done through local GPs sounds a bit unlikely to me.

"I think they're going to have to have a bespoke solution for the Pfizer vaccine, which is absolutely worth it, but they will have to think quite hard about how they are going to do that."

Earlier, Mr Hancock told ITV News that there's already a "huge vaccine rollout plan" in place across the NHS with the health service ready to start immunising the most vulnerable to coronavirus as soon as December.

No vaccine will be deployed until the government is "confident it is clinically safe", Matt Hancock told ITV News, but whenever that is "we will be ready".

He said: "I've been working with the NHS for months to make this happen and we're working with GPs... to make sure that we can rollout a vaccine as quickly as it can be manufactured."

Mr Hancock added that there are no plans to make vaccine uptake compulsory, but he's "confident" that the number of people wanting to be vaccinated will be "really high".

He added: "This is a promising step forward, there's lots more steps to come but no matter when a vaccine comes, as soon as one is available, we will be ready."

Priority for the vaccine will first be given to those in care homes, the elderly and health and social care staff - a full priority list can be found here.