On Monday, news filtered through that the vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is 90% effective - with zero safety concerns raised during its testing phase during which it was used on 43,500 people.
The sensation of relief that swept the country on Monday was understandable.
During the afternoon, news filtered through that a vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has been confirmed to be 90% effective – with zero safety concerns raised from its testing phase during which it was used on 43,500 people.
This is as close as we’ve been to the prospect of immunisation since the pandemic took hold.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty called the news “very encouraging”, whilst Deputy CMO Jonathan Van-Tam even suggested there could be a vaccine by Christmas – with a “much better horizon by spring.”
But the truth is these are early days.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who himself must have been buoyed by the very real prospect of a magic jab after a torrid few months leading the nation – urged caution.
He warned it was still “very, very early days”, and that “the biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at a critical moment.”
Van Tam also admitted that setbacks during the distribution of a vaccine could easily happen, and attempted to clarify the situation with a football analogy.
“[We] haven’t won the cup yet, but what it does is it tells you that the goalkeeper can be beaten,” he said.
Here’s what we know about the new vaccine so far…
How does the vaccine work?
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine works by teaching the immune system to combat coronavirus.
Two doses are required – three weeks apart – for maximum effect.
The vaccine involves injecting people with a tiny bit of the virus which the immune system immediately recognises as a threat and learns how to defeat; thereby offering future protection.
According to developers, 9 out of 10 people who receive the vaccine will not get COVID symptoms.
Who will get it first?
The most vulnerable people in the UK will have first dibs on any vaccine.
This means it’s likely to be distributed to care homes and hospitals – locations the virus has hit hardest.
Frontline workers may also be prioritised for doses.
The expectation is that the older you are, the sooner you will be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine.
Younger people are likely to be lower down the list unless they have a condition that categorises them as vulnerable.
Will it work?
It does, so far.
But the answer as to whether the vaccine will work in the long-term is a case of wait and see.
There are apparently some logistical challenges to storing the vaccine, too – with doses having to be kept at -80 degrees (facilities a humble GP surgery or pharmacy would not have).
The virus may also mutate later down the line, which would mean the vaccine would have to be tweaked in order to remain effective.
When will lockdowns stop?
Once the vaccine is ready, the challenge is getting it to the people who need it most.
This will take time, and until then, social restrictions remain of crucial importance in the fight against COVID-19.
Is the UK getting the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine?
Britain has ordered 30 million doses.
What about other vaccines?
There are around a dozen vaccines in the final stages of development – with news expected on these in the coming weeks and months.
However, the Pfizer vaccine appears to be the lead candidate.
The BBC’s Health and science correspondent, James Gallagher, stated: “We are still waiting for the full data, but these results are even better than people were hoping for.
“A good flu vaccine protects around half of people, so 90% at the first attempt is a triumph.”
‘Warm Banks’ set up in Greater Manchester to help people who ‘cannot afford to put the heating on’
A council in Greater Manchester has confirmed plans to open ‘Warm Banks’, to help people keep warm this winter as energy bills skyrocket.
Oldham Council will be creating welcoming, heated, sheltered spaces for those who ‘cannot afford to put the heating on’.
The move will see places like libraries turned into Warm Banks as part of the council’s £3m plans to tackle the cost of living crisis.
In a statement, Cllr Amanda Chadderton, Leader of Oldham Council, said that schemes such as Warm Banks ‘should not be necessary in 2022’.
It’s hoped that the plans will particularly help vulnerable residents, such as the elderly and families with young children, through the colder months.
She said: “As part of our £3m commitment to tackle the cost of living, we’re setting up Warm Banks so that Oldham residents who are cold and cannot afford to put the heating on have a place where they can get warm.
“These should not be necessary in 2022, but the reality for many people is that the cost of energy is unaffordable and without support, they will be cold in their own homes. This is particularly worrisome for our vulnerable residents such as the elderly or families with young children.
“Our Warm Banks are places already open to the public, such as our libraries. We’ll be investing into these spaces over the coming weeks to make sure they’re as welcoming as they can be. We’ll also be working with our partners to identify places in the community that can be used as Warm Banks to ensure none of our residents are forced to be cold.
“As we approach the winter months and face another rise in our energy costs tomorrow with the October price cap increase, this situation is going to get worse for residents. But they’re not alone and as a council, we can help.
“Our team are on hand to help anyone who is already struggling with their energy costs. Through our Warm Homes Scheme, residents can access a range of support including claiming for Warm Homes Discount, help to switch energy suppliers or tariffs as well as ways to maximise your income to help make the basics more affordable.
“If you’re struggling, we can help. Please contact our emergency helpline on 0161 770 7777 and our staff will do everything they can to make things a little easier for you.”
Featured image: Oldham Council
Kwasi Kwarteng U-turns on plan to axe 45p tax rate for higher earners
Kwasi Kwarteng has U-turned on plans to scrap the 45p rate of income tax for the UK’s highest earners.
The sudden change of heart comes just 10 days after the Chancellor unveiled his mini Budget, which has led to 10 days of market turmoil and fierce pressure from within the Conservative party.
Just yesterday, Prime Minister Liz Truss insisted that the tax cut, which would benefit Brits earning more than £150,000, would go ahead.
Mr Kwarteng said that the proposals had ‘become a distraction’ in a statement released this morning.
Given that his Growth Plan has been labelled a ‘Kami-Kwase Budget’, that would seem to be an understatement.
“We get it, and we have listened,” he wrote.
His statement says: “From supporting British business to lowering the tax burden for the lowest paid, our Growth Plan sets out a new approach to build a more prosperous economy.
“However, it is clear that the abolition of the 45p tax rate has become a distraction from our overriding mission to tackle the challenges facing our country.
“As a result, I’m announcing we are not proceeding with the abolition of the 45p tax rate. We get it, and we have listened.
“This will allow us to focus on delivering the major parts of our growth package.
“First, our Energy Price Guarantee, which will support households and businesses with their energy bills. Second, cutting taxes to put money back in the pockets of 30 million hard-working people and grow our economy.
“Third, driving supply side reforms – including accelerating major infrastructure projects – to get Britain moving.”
Mr Kwarteng’s U-turn on the 45p tax cut policy has been described as ‘humiliating’ and comes on the second day of the Tory party conference in Birmingham.
Former Transport Secretary Grant Schapps said: “Strongly welcome today’s 45p tax reversal. Sensible & pragmatic.
“Conservatives want lower tax, but let’s show our energy price cap + other policies are on side of consumers rather than borrowing to cut high earner taxes first.”
Piers Morgan said: “Tories to U-turn on 45p tax rate cut. Humongous humiliation for @trussliz @KwasiKwarteng and worse possible start to their conference. She’ll have to sack him, surely?”