The UK is planning to test combination of different COVID-19 vaccines while it became the first Western country to begin immunisations.
On Tuesday morning, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan was the first person to receive the inoculation developed by Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech after it was approved last week, followed by a man named William Shakespeare.
The government has secured 40mln doses of the jab, enough to vaccinate 20mln people with the necessary double dose, while NHS Providers expects 4mln to be available by the end of the year.
Officials estimate 800,000 doses will be available this week alone across 50 hospitals.
Including the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the UK has inked deals for 357mln doses from seven producers: Oxford/AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Moderna, Valneva, GlaxoSmithKline PLC (LON:GSK)/Sanofi and Novavax.
The UK Vaccine Taskforce said this variety will allow to mix and match different combinations of vaccines in the two-dose regime, to identify the optimum combination for durable and robust immunity.
With the approval for the Oxford vaccine expected within a couple of weeks, the country could start combination trials, where participants would first a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab followed by a dose of the Oxford as a booster, or vice versa.
“These will be relatively small studies,” Clive Dix, taskforce deputy chair, was reported as saying by Bloomberg. “They’ll only be with the approved vaccines.”
Health minister Matt Hancock said that once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated the government will begin to lift restrictions.
Vaccine taskforce chair Kate Bingham said her “gut feeling” was that “we will all be going on summer holidays”.
It is likely people most at risk would be vaccinated by April, she told the BBC, and then the authorities would consider how to broaden out the vaccinations to other adults. “I think by the summer we should be in a much better place to get on planes,” she added.
“Truly light at the end of the tunnel,” said analyst Neil Wilson at Markets.com.
However, the FTSE 100 and many companies that are expected to do well from lifting of coronavirus restrictions were lower on Tuesday afternoon after big rises in recent weeks and fluctuating concerns about a Brexit deal.