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    Elderly people given Oxford University’s vaccine DO get protection from Covid-19, study finds as Matt Hancock says first doses could be ready before Christmas

    Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine triggers a ‘robust’ immune response in the elderly, a study has shown.

    It suggests the group at highest risk of serious illness and death from the disease could be protected if given the jab.

    The study found the vaccine prompted the release of antibodies and T-cells, which fight Covid-19, in people over-55.

    While this finding on its own doesn’t prove the vaccine will work, it is more promising evidence that boosts its chances.

    Previous research had proven the jab, currently the global frontrunner, could prompt an immune response in younger people, who are less affected by the disease.

    The vaccine is currently in phase three clinical trials on tens of thousands of people around the world to assess whether it works in real-world scenarios.

    In these studies, people are given a dose then researchers wait for them to get infected naturally and check if the vaccine was successful in preventing illness. 

    Its researchers say the jab could be ready by the end of the year and rolled out en masse by spring in 2021.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock today refused to rule out getting the vaccine to the most vulnerable Britons before Christmas. 

    Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine triggers a ‘robust’ immune response in the elderly, a study has shown (file) 

    Mr Hancock said that his ‘central expectation’ is that the majority of the rollout of a vaccine could be under way in the first half of 2021.

    But he refused to rule out any possibility that people could start receiving a vaccine this side of Christmas.

    Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the vaccine programme was ‘progressing well’.

    Asked how soon NHS staff could be injected with a vaccine, he said: ‘Well, we’re not there yet.

    ‘The vaccine programme is progressing well. We’re in very close contact with the leading candidates.

    ‘On my central expectation, I would expect the bulk of the rollout to be in the first half of next year.’

    Asked if there could be some this year, he said: ‘Well, I don’t rule that out, but that is not my central expectation.’

    Clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines are ongoing. Some have speculated that two vaccine candidates will report data to regulators this year.

    When asked about reports that hospitals are preparing to vaccinate staff, Mr Hancock added: ‘We want to be ready in case everything goes perfectly.’

    ‘But it’s not my central expectation that we’ll be doing that this year. The true answer to your question is, we don’t know.

    ‘We don’t know when the first vaccine will be available but my central expectation is in the first half of next year.

    ‘Nevertheless, we’re doing the preparatory work now for how that will be rolled out – the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations has set out the order of priority; and we’re doing the logistical work – led by the NHS working with the armed services who are playing an important role in the logistics of it to ensure that we have that rollout programme ready.

    ‘But, you know, preparing for a rollout and actually having the stuff to roll out are two different things.

    ‘It’s obviously something that we want to happen as soon as safely can be done. And as fast as safely can be done, but we are not there yet.’

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