Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said the over-50s, frontline healthcare workers and those with heart and kidney problems would also be in the first cohort to be inoculated by coronavirus jabs as soon as a vaccine becomes available

A potential vaccine developed by Oxford University is already being manufactured by the British drugs firm AstraZeneca so that it can be rolled out straight away if it is given clinical approval.

Human clinical trials are also being carried out on another possible vaccine created by Imperial College London.

Mr Hancock said: “As soon as [a vaccine] comes available, just as we did for testing will be guided by the clinical science prioritising those in most need.”

He said advice published yesterday by the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation recommended priority vaccination for two groups: frontline health and social care workers, and those at increased risk of serious disease and death from coronavirus, including adults over the age of 50 and those with heart and kidney disease.

Mr Hancock went on: “As we learn more about the virus we will continue to take into account which groups may be particularly vulnerable, including for example those from ethnic minority backgrounds so we can protect the most at risk first should a vaccine become available and get this country back on our feet as soon as we possibly can.”

He said the Government’s approach to vaccines “is to throw everything at it as fast as we can and rigorously to test and make sure that they’re safe before deployment”. 

He added: “Since the start we’ve been supporting the most promising projects. As of this week the Imperial vaccine is now in the first phase of human clinical trials and AstraZeneca has struck a deal for the manufacture of the Oxford vaccine.

“They’re starting manufacturing now even ahead of approval, so we can build up a stockpile and be ready should it be clinically approved, just like with dexamethasone, the treatment which we stockpiled before we had proved that it was clinically effective.”

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