The Prime Minister has urged the public not to “slacken their resolve” despite a pharmaceutical giant announcing a coronavirus vaccine breakthrough.
Boris Johnson said the Pfizer vaccine news – that the jab is more than 90% effective in preventing infection – was a sign the “scientific cavalry” was on its way, but added it was “very, very early days”.
He told a Downing Street press conference that the vaccine had cleared a “significant hurdle” but there were more to cross before it could be used.
He said: “The Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine has been tested on over 40,000 volunteers and interim results suggest it is proving 90% effective at protecting people against the virus.
“But we haven’t yet seen the full safety data, and these findings also need to be peer-reviewed.
“So we have cleared one significant hurdle but there are several more to go before we know the vaccine can be used.”
The UK Government has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for about a third of the UK population.
“If the Pfizer vaccine passes all the rigorous safety checks and is proven to be effective then we will begin a UK-wide NHS led programme of vaccine distribution,” the Prime Minister said.
But he added: “We have talked for a long time, or I have, about the distant bugle of the scientific cavalry coming over the brow of the hill
“And tonight that toot of the bugle is louder, but it is still some way off.
“And we absolutely cannot rely on this as a solution.
“The biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at such a critical moment.”
Earlier, Pfizer and its vaccine partner BioNTech said interim data showed their jab was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 infection.
Scientists around the globe welcomed the news, with many saying it was a significant breakthrough in the fight against Covid-19.
Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at the University of Oxford, said: “This news made me smile from ear to ear.”
The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised.
Pfizer and BioNTech plan to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration – the US medicines regulator – by the end of the month for emergency approval to use the vaccine.
About a dozen Covid-19 vaccines around the world are currently in the final stages of testing but Pfizer’s is the first to report any results.