People in the UK will not be able to bypass the government and buy Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine privately, the pharmaceutical giant has confirmed.
Asked if it would allow individuals to purchase doses outside any UK government roll out, Pfizer told HuffPost UK: “No, the focus is on supplying as per the agreed deal with the UK government.”
In a major boost to hopes that the virus could be brought under control, the US firm announced on Monday its vaccine had been found to be be more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19.
It led to Sir John Bell, one of the UK government’s top scientific advisers, to declare life could return to normal by spring.
The British government has already procured procured 40m doses of the vaccine – enough to vaccinate up to 20m people, including five million of them this year if the jab is approved.
Interim guidance from the Independent Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVIV), which advises the government, lists 10 groups it deems high-risk and priority for a vaccine.
- older adults resident in a care home and care home workers
- all those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers
- all those 75 years of age and over
- all those 70 years of age and over
- all those 65 years of age and over
- high-risk adults under 65 years of age
- moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age
- all those 60 years of age and over
- all those 55 years of age and over
- all those 50 years of age and over
Professor Wei Shen Lim, the chair of the JCVIV, also said on Wednesday Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities could be added to the prioritisation list, having not been included in the interim guidance – despite Matt Hancock’s suggestion they would be prioritised earlier this year.
Therese Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, was asked on Wednesday evening if the wealthy might be able to jump the queue to get the vaccine ahead of others.
Speaking to ITV she said: “I think that we can choose how we can at least prioritise the vaccines that are coming through the UK government.
“I don’t think we’re going to be stopping other people buying vaccines but I think we’re well-placed to make sure we help as many people as possible in this country, as quick as possible.”
When it was suggested the government could not stop a private supply chain, Coffey added: “Well, indeed.”
Boris Johnson welcomed Pfizer’s announcement on Monday but urged the public not to “slacken our resolve” in obeying the tightened lockdown rules across the country.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said on Monday a vaccine could be available for “some” by Christmas but it would be a “colossal mistake” for people to relax amid the winter second wave.
Other vaccines such as one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University are expected to report trial results soon.