Coronavirus

Top health chief says COVID vaccine could prevent 99% hospital admissions and deaths

The newly developed COVID-19 vaccine could keep up to 99% of hospitalisations and deaths at bay during the first wave of vaccinations, a top health chief has said.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam has told BBC News that providing everyone on the priority list has it, then the vaccine will be highly effective.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has decided the priority order for those who should receive the vaccination first. People in care homes, care home staff and people over 80 have been put at the top of the list.

Professor Tam, who was taking viewer questions on BBC Five Live and the BBC News Channel, said: “If we can get through phase one [of the priority list] and it is a highly effective vaccine and there is very, very high up take, then we could in theory take out 99% of hospitalisations and deaths related to COVID-19. That is why the phase one list is what is, that is the primary ambition.”

He has become well known for his colourful metaphors in recent weeks and during his BBC appearance, Prof Tam compared the first wave of the vaccine programme to a football match.

He said: “It’s clear in the first half, the away team gave us an absolute battering, and what we’ve done now is it’s the 70th minute, they got a goal, and in the 70th minute we’ve now got an equaliser.

“Okay, we’ve got to hold our nerve now, see if we can get another goal and nick it. But the key thing is not to lose it, not to throw it away at this point because we’ve got a point on the board, and we’ve got the draw.”

He has warned people that it is important people continue to follow the guidance and to be patient as it will still take time to roll out the vaccine.

But addressing people’s concerns about the safety of the treatment, he told viewers that he had instructed his own mother to have the vaccine.

He said: “I genuinely have said to my 78-year-old mum, who’s probably listening now – ‘Mum, you must have this vaccine, or any of the vaccines that the MHRA [the UK’s medicines regulator] approves as soon as they are available. This is really important, because you are so at risk’.”

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