Singapore began vaccinating healthcare workers with Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday, kicking off one of Asia's first inoculation programmes against a pandemic that has killed more than 1.7 million people globally.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said it marked a "significant moment" in the fight against the virus, adding that "2021 can be a year of hope and recovery because we can see our way out of the pandemic". "We can say now with confidence that we can get out of this by spring".
The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is now undergoing a "rolling review" which allows the EMA to examine safety and efficacy data as they are released, even before a formal application for authorisation is filed by the manufacturer.
It is the second jab to be approved in the United Kingdom after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was given the go-ahead in December. Unlike other vaccines, it can be stored in refrigerators rather than ultra-cold storage units. The mRNA vaccine candidate, administered in two doses, has been found to be 95 percent effective in preventing the disease. The company announced Wednesday that preliminary data from last-stage trials had shown it to be 79.3% effective.It is an inactive vaccine, which means the virus was grown in a lab and then killed. That's different from BioNTech and Pfizer's messenger-RNA approach, which transforms the body's own cells into vaccine-making factories.
While soaring case numbers played a part in that decision, Munir Pirmohamed, of Britain's Commission on Human Medicines, said that there appeared to be no drawback to waiting for the second dose and that a longer time between shots might even improve efficacy.
However, Pfizer said that any "alternative" dosing methods should be tracked by health officials.
"We need every manufacturer in the world who can make these vaccines to be doing so, to protect people as fast as possible". The first tests will combine the Pfizer and Astra vaccines. It noted that two doses are needed for the highest level of protection against infection.
Over a dozen countries have already approved the vaccine for use, including Britain, Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Only 12 percent of study subjects were over 55.