THERE is up to an 80% chance of the UK’s most vulnerable people being vaccinated against Covid-19 by Easter, a top pandemic expert has said.

But Sir John Bell – regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the UK Government's vaccine taskforce – warned that prediction is based on the assumption the Tory Government doesn’t "screw up” distribution.

Yesterday, scientists at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced their experimental coronavirus vaccine, developed in conjunction with BioNTech, could be more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19.

READ MORE: How significant is the new coronavirus vaccine announcement?

Bell, speaking today at Westminster, said he would not be surprised if there were "two or three [successful] vaccines" in the coming months.

"I think this journey to a vaccine has been a long journey and I think there's a risk that people will underestimate the importance of the announcement yesterday," he told a joint session of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee.

The National: Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Government's vaccine taskforceSir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Government's vaccine taskforce

"The big challenge here was to find a vaccine that actually had efficacy against this virus.

"There are many pathogens for which we have looked for decades and not found a vaccine that works."

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon says coronavirus vaccine is the 'light at the end of the tunnel'

Bell added that there is a "70-80%" of the most vulnerable people in the UK being inoculated by Easter, at the beginning of April.

"That's provided they don't screw up the distribution of the vaccine,” he warned.

Calling the Pfizer announcement a "massive step forward", the scientist continued: "It also signals, I think, that many of the other vaccines that have the same immunogenicity are likely also to be efficacious.

"So I wouldn't be surprised if we hit the new year with two or three vaccines, all of which could be distributed.

"And that's why I'm quite optimistic of getting enough vaccinations done in the first quarter of next year that by spring things will start to look much more normal than they do now."

The UK has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – the first agreement the firms signed with any government.

It is thought people will need two doses, meaning insufficient shots have been secured for the entire UK population.

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman says the four UK governments have agreed the jabs will be distributed by "population share".

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it will be a "colossal exercise" to roll out a new coronavirus vaccine should it become available.

He described the Pfizer-BioNTech report as "very promising", adding that the NHS was now working with the armed forces to ensure they were ready as soon as a vaccine was cleared for use.