“IT IS fantastic.”

An experimental vaccine that can offer 90 per cent protection against coronavirus has been hailed by a Romsey care home co-ordinator as the key to stamping out the deadly bug.

The vaccine has been developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, whose clinical trial on 43,500 people in six countries suggested nine out of 10 people who have their jab are protected by it.

It is believed the UK could receive 10 million doses of the vaccine by Christmas - enough for five million people - after the virus killed more than one million people, battered the world’s economy and turned daily life upside down.

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Community volunteer coordinator for Fryers House in Botley Road, Trish Moody, said: “It is fantastic they have come up with this vaccine so quickly, but we will have to be really patient and continue to stay safe because we don’t know when we will get it.

“But, when we do know, it will be exciting and it will just be nice to get back out there and get some normality back into everybody’s lives.

“It is great the Government is going to give the vaccine to frontline staff and the most vulnerable people first, but they have got a blooming big job on their hands to get this organised.”

Romsey Advertiser: Trish MoodyTrish Moody

When asked if politicians should have the jab first to prove it is safe, Trish said: “I think it would be a waste of time because the vaccine has already been trialled on 43,500 people and we should trust these scientists."

MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes, also welcomed the news, believing it could be the beginning of the end for coronavirus.

She said: “I think we are right to be optimistic that we are en route to a vaccination programme and of course I welcome that. “Clearly there need to be the proper safety tests concluded, but this could see us begin to come out of this terrible situation.”

Romsey Advertiser: MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline NokesMP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes

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But others have urged caution, warning that a jab is not an immediate fix for care homes, or a long term solution to bring separated families back together again on its own.

CEO of Sears Healthcare, Richard Adams, which runs Durban House in Woodley Lane, Romsey, said the announcement of Pfizer’s vaccine progress “is by far the best news” to have emerged in the battle against coronavirus.

However, he stressed nursing homes cannot afford to throw caution to the wind, despite the progress towards finding a game-changing jab.

His words of warning echo those of the Prime Minister, who said this week the injection would not make any difference to the current month-long lockdown in England or this wave of the disease.

Since the start of the crisis, at least 198 NHS and care workers have died because of Covid-19, while more than 16,000 deaths occurred in care homes. Such grim figures have led to tough restrictions on visitors to protect care industry workers and residents, causing anguish for parted families.

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Those hardships facing relatives hoping to visit loved ones would continue for some time, Mr Adams warned.

He said: “Given that there are still questions about the length of the effectiveness of the vaccine, the requirement for two doses of vaccine and the ability to produce, distribute and administer sufficient supply of the vaccine, we cannot abandon the precautions we have in place currently.”

The Government still needed to urgently prioritise faster and more efficient testing and tracing, he said.

New figures this week revealed the Government’s test and trace system was still struggling to reach 60 per cent of contacts of those told to isolate because of the virus. Greater action is being taken, with the entire city of Liverpool getting tested and NHS staff set for twice a week, routine testing.

But Mr Adams said the care sector needed more support.

He added: “There is still a pressing need for more effective access to, and faster testing for, care homes, in order for us to get back to our pre-Covid visiting arrangements. “We cannot carry on as we are, keeping families apart, while we wait for the vaccine. “We must keep looking for other ways that enable us to bring families together again, and testing is key to that.”

But others were more optimistic about the hope a vaccine provides.

Abbotswood Court Care Home manager, Lea Wintle, said it is encouraging to hear about the vaccine progress, since the virus has been a “constant threat within the community”.

“If the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective then this will give everyone hope that we can all get back to enjoying life as normal as soon as possible.”