The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the vaccine candidate put forward by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, bringing the nation one step closer to a nationwide vaccination roll out.
On Wednesday 2 December, the vaccine was approved by UK regulator MHRNA - the jab offers up to 95 per cent protection - with health secretary Matt Hancock confirming that this step meant it would start being used on the NHS in the coming weeks and months.
"2020 has been just awful and 2021 is going to be better," Mr Hancock said. "I'm confident now, with the news today, that from spring, from Easter onwards, things are going to be better. And we're going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy."
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 20 million people, and the first 800,000 doses will be available as soon as the week beginning 7 December, Mr Hancock said. However, the majority of the population will be vaccinated in 2021.
The draft priority list for the vaccine has long placed care home residents, care workers, and NHS staff at the top. Followed by the most elderly and vulnerable in descending age. Following the vaccine approval, a panel of vaccine experts confirmed that the most vulnerable would still be vaccinated first, rather than those in the highest regional tiers of lockdown.
But how do you know when you’re eligible to book a vaccine? Will you be contacted by your GP automatically when it is ready or will the news be shared, for example, in Downing Street press briefings?
When am I due the vaccine?
On 2 December it was confirmed by the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation that first in the queue would be residents and staff in care homes for the elderly. Shortly followed by those age 80 and over and frontline health and social care workers.
Next comes those aged 75 and over in the third level. In the fourth band are those aged over 70, as well as all adults who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
The fifth band will be for those aged over 65; and the sixth for all adults in at-risk groups. Next will be over-60s; then the over-55s; and then the over-50s.
After that, the vaccine will be available for the wider population for those over the age of 16. Most children under the age of 16 will not get the vaccine even when fully rolled out.
How will you know when you can get the vaccine?
Although a provisional timeline has been made public, people still will not have a sense of when they might expect to get the vaccine. And given the government has suggested vaccinations could begin next week, it could be sooner than previously anticipated.
On Wednesday, Matt Hancock said people should wait to be contacted by the NHS for a call up to be vaccinated, rather than trying to organise it ahead of time.
As with other routine vaccinations like the annual flu campaign, or children’s pre-school jabs, it is anticipated that people will either be contacted by letter or call from their GP. So, for now, wait to be contacted.
The regular Downing Street press conferences will also likely give you an idea of what stage of the rollout the NHS is currently working through.
How will the vaccine be administered?
The vaccine is most likely to be administered at your GP surgery. If you work or live in a care home, or work on the frontline in a hospital or medical setting, you could get the vaccination in that setting instead. Individual vaccination hubs are also currently being set up around the country as well. The vaccine is being rolled out on the NHS, not privately.
The Pzifer vaccine requires two doses to be administered 21 days apart. People will be immune seven days after the second dose, said Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, NHS Chair of Pharmacogenetics at the University of Liverpool.
The NHS is currently recruiting 30,000 volunteers to help with administering the vaccinations.
How are vaccines usually done?
The NHS has a lot of experience when it comes to vaccinating large numbers of people. This winter, the flu jab is expected to reach 30 million people, for example. This is double the number normally vaccinated.
There are some that are usually given to children, such as the MMR vaccine, and others that are typically administered to elderly people, such as the shingles vaccine.
Additional vaccinations are administered to people before they travel abroad to certain foreign countries. These can be requested either through your GP or at a travel clinic.