Whizzing off the production line in thousands of tiny bottles – new footage shows the vaccine that could end the Covid misery engulfing the planet.
Drug giant Pfizer has already manufactured ‘several hundred thousand doses’ of the jab at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
They are being stockpiled ready to be rolled out worldwide if clinical trials are a success, and regulators deem it safe and effective.
The US giant hopes to make 100 million doses available this year, of which 40 million are destined for the UK – a figure that will be dwarfed by the 1.3 billion jabs the company aims to manufacture in 2021.
Every patient who receives the vaccine will need two doses.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday today, Pfizer UK boss Ben Osborn says: ‘It was great to see the first vial coming off the manufacturing line.
‘It just brought a tremendous smile to my face to see all of this work actually result in a product.’
The news of progress on the Covid-19 vaccine came as:
- It was revealed MPs DID flout 10pm bar curfew but Matt Hancock refused 30 TIMES to say if he was among them as House of Commons bosses are accused of a cover-up;
- Mayor Andy Burnham blamed Chancellor Rishi Sunak for being ‘the problem’ in row over financial support for Manchester Tier 3 lockdown and accuses him of making ‘wrong judgements’ throughout pandemic;
- Tory MPs demanded Boris Johnson set a ‘clear end date’ for local lockdowns and set out a strategy to get life back to normal amid fears ministers could this week agree new ‘super’ Tier Three rules;
- Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is accused of breaking two-week quarantine rules after being photographed at a London club 10 days after returning from a White House event in the US
- Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was accused of cynically positioning himself against PM as he calls for half-term lockdown.
Hundreds of thousands of doses of a possible Covid-19 vaccine have been prepared by a plant in Belgium
Pfizer’s UK boss Ben Osborn said: It was great to see the first vial coming off the manufacturing line. It just brought a tremendous smile to my face to see all of this work actually result in a product’
Pfizer, which is working with Germany’s BioNTech, is currently running a trial on 44,000 people, and last week said it plans to apply for emergency US approval of its vaccine in November.
That puts Pfizer in pole position in the race to launch a Covid vaccine.
Separately, Osborn said Pfizer’s laboratory in Sandwich, Kent, has unearthed drugs that could provide a potential cure for Covid-19.
It comes as it was today reported that the NHS is preparing to introduce a coronavirus vaccine soon after Christmas.
The UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, reportedly told MPs last week that stage three trials of the vaccine created at Oxford University, which is being produced by Astra Zeneca, could be rolled-out in December, reports the Sunday Times.
According to the paper, he said: ‘We aren’t light years away from it. It isn’t a totally unrealistic suggestion that we could deploy a vaccine soon after Christmas.
‘That would have a significant impact on hospital admissions and deaths.’
Thousands of NHS staff are to undergo training to administer a vaccine before the end of the year, the paper adds.
The UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, reportedly told MPs last week that stage three trials of the vaccine created at Oxford University, which is being produced by Astra Zeneca, could be rolled-out in December, reports the Sunday Times
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is under growing pressure from furious Tory grandees to set out a ‘clear end date’ for local lockdowns.
Senior Conservative Party figures have warned the Prime Minister he must announce a ‘strategy for returning life to normal’ as they said an indefinite cycle of localised shutdowns is not acceptable and would wreck the economy.
The intervention came amid growing speculation that ministers could this week agree to new ‘super’ Tier Three restrictions which would be imposed on the parts of the country with the highest coronavirus infection rates.
Lockdown critics are on red alert after Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, said last week that the draconian Tier Three measures will not be enough to get the R rate below the key number of 1.
He said on Friday the ‘baseline’ measures set out in the top tier of restrictions, which include shutting pubs and banning household mixing indoors, ‘almost certainly aren’t enough’ to get the virus back under control.
But the prospect of even stricter rules being rolled out by the Government is likely to spark an angry Tory backlash.
Many Tory MPs and peers believe the current blueprint of local lockdowns is not sustainable in the longer term.
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said it was ‘pointless’ to rely on lockdowns to suppress on the virus.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘If further restrictions on people’s lives are proposed, the Government has to set a clear end date and a strategy for returning life to normal.’
Lord Lamont of Lerwick, the former chancellor, said repeatedly imposing lockdowns and then lifting them was ‘deeply damaging to business and is not really a strategy’.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative backbencher, has urged the Government to set out a ‘living with coronavirus’ policy.
He and five other Essex MPs have also called for more financial support for businesses in Tier Two areas.
A Government spokesman said: ‘We keep all measures under review and we don’t want restrictions to be in place any longer than is necessary, but where the virus is spreading we must take targeted action in order to save lives, protect the NHS, keep children at school and shelter the economy.’
The row over local lockdowns came as the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, blamed Chancellor Rishi Sunak for being ‘the problem’ in the standoff over moving the region into Tier Three.
The feud between Number 10 and the Labour mayor continued yesterday after Downing Street said fresh talks had been set up for the weekend, only for Mr Burnham’s office to deny that was the case.
Mr Burnham and Conservative politicians in Greater Manchester oppose Tier Three measures being imposed, with the mayor calling for greater financial support for workers and businesses.
He has called for a return to the generosity of the original furlough scheme that saw the Treasury pay 80 per cent of workers wages, but Mr Sunak has only offered a 66 per cent subsidy for those whose firms forced to shut by Tier Three measures.
The Greater Manchester mayor told the New Statesman magazine: ‘I think the problem now is, to a large degree, the Chancellor. I think he’s made wrong judgements throughout this.’
Downing Street indicated a call had been scheduled for Sunday morning after a message was left with Mr Burnham.
But a spokesman for the mayor said: ‘Nothing has yet been arranged.’
A Downing Street source responded: ‘No 10 reached out this morning to try and arrange a meeting with the Mayor of Manchester.
‘We will continue to try and reach an agreement on these difficult, yet necessary, measures to protect the NHS and the people of Manchester.’
Mr Johnson on Friday threatened to impose measures on Greater Manchester without local support as he warned that ‘time is of the essence’ and that ‘tragically more people will die’ with each day of delay.
Meanwhile, House of Commons bosses are today accused of a cover-up after admitting MPs broke a strict Covid drinking curfew – but failing to say if Matt Hancock was among them.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that an official inquiry has confirmed our revelations last week that MPs drank their way past the nationwide 10pm deadline in a Commons bar.
But in an extraordinary lapse, officials failed to ask if the Health Secretary was involved – despite the claims of a senior Tory MP that he was there.
Mr Hancock is today under mounting pressure to come clean about his actions after the witness insisted: ‘I stand 100 per cent by my story. I know what I saw, and when.’
Yet the Health Secretary has refused 30 times to say whether he returned to the Commons Smoking Room bar after a 9.40pm vote.
House of Commons bosses are today accused of a cover-up after admitting MPs broke a strict Covid drinking curfew – but failing to say if Matt Hancock was among them
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that an official inquiry has confirmed our revelations last week that MPs drank their way past the nationwide 10pm deadline in a Commons bar. But in an extraordinary lapse, officials failed to ask if the Health Secretary was involved – despite the claims of a senior Tory MP that he was there
Last night, former Labour MP John Mann, who is now a non-affiliated peer, said of the limited Commons inquiry: ‘This does smack of a cover-up. We in Parliament have a duty to respect the rules we lay down for everyone in the country. But more than that, we have a duty to be seen to be respecting the rules.’
Last night, former Labour MP John Mann (above) said of the limited Commons inquiry: ‘This does smack of a cover-up. We in Parliament have a duty to respect the rules we lay down for everyone in the country. But more than that, we have a duty to be seen to be respecting the rules’
However, Charles Walker, the senior Tory MP who led the curfew probe, last night claimed it would have been ‘invidious’ to have asked Commons bar staff to name the MPs drinking past 10pm.
The Mail on Sunday last week revealed astonishing claims that the Health Secretary had breached his own curfew by drinking in the Smoking Room bar after 10pm.
We reported how Mr Hancock arrived at the MPs-only bar just before a 9.40pm vote on Monday, October 5, ordered a glass of white wine and made a tasteless joke about Public Health England losing nearly 16,000 positive coronavirus tests.
‘The drinks are on me – but Public Health England are in charge of the payment methodology so I will not be paying anything,’ he was heard to say.
In a carefully worded statement issued on his behalf, the Health Secretary made no attempt to deny that he made the joke.
He has also admitted being in the Smoking Room that night but claims ‘no rules have been broken’ and claimed he ‘departed the parliamentary estate to go home’ after taking part in a Commons vote at 9.40pm.
However, his spokesman has declined to answer the simple question: did he return to the bar before he left for home?
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured) yesterday banned alcohol sales in all Commons outlets. But earlier in the week, authorities reacted to the curfew breach by installing a new sign in the bar setting out the curfew rules
Police officers patrol the streets of Soho on Saturday night after London went into its first day of Tier 2 lockdown
Since Mr Hancock’s only formal statement to this newspaper last weekend, we have sent his spokesman 30 further requests for comment including twice daily emails and twice daily WhatsApp messages.
The spokesman replied just three times, to say only: ‘I would refer you back to the previous statement that I provided.’
Mr Walker, chairman of the Commons Administration Committee, confirmed that some MPs broke the rules, saying: ‘It happened and it should not have happened… it does seem there were drinks being consumed after 10pm on that Monday night in the Smoking Room.’
He stressed that the rules then in place in the Commons – in line with the curfew for all pubs and restaurants – were that bars should be empty of people drinking alcohol by 10pm. But he defended the decision not to identify which MPs have been guilty, saying it would have been ‘invidious’ to ask Common staff to do so.
However, Sir Alistair Graham – former chairman of the Committee on Standards In Public Life – said: ‘I don’t know that should be so. If they are trying to apply rules in a rigorous way, why shouldn’t they ask the staff which MPs they were serving?’
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle yesterday banned alcohol sales in all Commons outlets. But earlier in the week, authorities reacted to the curfew breach by installing a new sign in the bar setting out the curfew rules.
However, one source complained that some MPs might ignore staff ‘because they see themselves as senior to them’.
Coronavirus positive tests in London have increased dramatically since the beginning of September but changes in recent weeks suggest the rate of rise is slowing down, with a 37 per cent increase in the seven days to October 7, compared to the almost double 84 per cent in the third week of September
Some 136 deaths were recorded yesterday, but scientists have warned this could rise to 690 by the end of the month
Mail on Sunday comment
Here is a very simple question, to which the answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It runs: ‘Did Health Secretary Matt Hancock return to the House of Commons Smoking Room after going to vote at 9.40pm on Monday, October 5?’
The Mail on Sunday has put this to Mr Hancock almost 30 times in the past week, and has received no such answer.
This is the same Matt Hancock who issues the decrees which have shut or brutally restricted restaurants and pubs up and down the country, wrecking their trade with curfews and rigid, inflexible closures.
On behalf of all those who have built up such businesses with long hours of risk and hard work and who now face going broke, and on behalf of those whose jobs in the hospitality industry are being wiped out, we demand that Mr Hancock replies, and finally reveals whether he obeys his own rules.