UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the NHS is ready to start providing the new coronavirus vaccine "as fast as safely possible."
Asked when the UK should expect this mass rollout, he said "in the first part of next year", but was also positive in its availability by Christmas, saying that it was "absolutely a possibility" it could still arrive before the end of 2020.
On Monday, early results from the world's first effective coronavirus vaccine showed it could prevent more than 90% of people from getting the virus.
Labelled the 'RNA' vaccine, US-based pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech made headlines around the world yesterday after unveiling the highly-successful results. The RNA vaccine is one of 11 vaccines that are currently in the final stages of testing.
The two companies now plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of November. The UK has already ordered 40 million doses, enough to vaccinate 20 million people.
Matt Hancock said vaccination clinics would be open seven days a week, with GPs set to receive an extra £150m as part of the move to get life back to normal in the UK. But when asked on how many people would need to be vaccinated for life to get back to normal, Matt Hancock answered: "We just don't know."
He said that "trials can tell you if a vaccine is clinically safe and if it's effective at protecting an individual from the disease. What we can't know, until we've vaccinated a significant proportion of the population, is how much it stops the transmission of the disease." He also said new quick response tests, which give rapid results in less than an hour, will be made available across 66 local areas, after they were used in a mass testing trial in Liverpool. The vaccine news arrives at a time when the number of people dying continues to be above normal levels for this time of year.