UK says expects to receive 10 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine this year

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain expects to have 10 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s candidate COVID-19 vaccine available by the end of the year if regulators approve it, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Monday, following positive clinical trial results.

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The spokesman said that Britain had now ordered 40 million doses of the candidate vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc PFE.N and BioNTech BNTX.O, enough to give protection to 20 million people.

Pfizer said its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective, a major victory in the fight against a pandemic that has killed more than a million people, battered the world’s economy and upended daily life.

“In total we have procured 40 million doses of the Pfizer candidate vaccine with 10 million of those doses being manufactured and available to the UK by the end of the year if the vaccine is approved by the regulators,” the spokesman said.

In all, the government has signed six supply deals for vaccine candidates, including Pfizer/BioNTech's and one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca AZN.L, which is also considered expected to post late-stage trial results this year.

“I can’t see any reason now why we shouldn’t have a handful of good vaccines available to this disease,” John Bell, regius professor of medicine at University of Oxford who sits on the UK government’s vaccine taskforce, told BBC Radio, adding that it augured well for Oxford’s own vaccine.

“I’m pretty optimistic that given this result, we’ll have a reasonably good chance of getting a good result as well,” he said, referring to Oxford’s late-stage trial results he said would come in “weeks not months”.

Johnson has placed England under a second national lockdown to contain a new wave of COVID-19 infections, but he has said that the prospects of a vaccine are one cause for optimism that the situation will improve by spring.

His spokesman said that though the government was “optimistic of a breakthrough, we must remember there are no guarantees,” adding that only once safety data was published would licensing authorities consider making it available to the public.

“In the meantime the NHS (National Health Service) stands ready to begin the vaccination programme for those most at risk once a COVID-19 vaccine is available, before being rolled out more widely,” he said.

Oxford’s Bell went further. Asked if life would be returning to normal by spring, he said: “Yes, yes, yes.”

“I’m probably the first guy to say that but... I will say that with some confidence.”

editing by Estelle Shirbon/Guy Faulconbridge