UK National Health Service plans to vaccinate one million every week
Posted on November 10th, 2020

Courtesy The Times ((UK)

Health service ready to give first doses next month, insists Hancock

A million people a week could be vaccinated against coronavirus under NHS plans to ensure a jab can be administered as quickly as it is manufactured.

All over-65s may be able to get the Pfizer jab before Easter if it is approved, with officials hopeful that the Oxford vaccine could allow a wider programme during the winter if it is also successful.

The government hopes to cover all over-50s and the most vulnerable younger adults, who account for 99 per cent of Covid-19 deaths, early next year in the first stage of a three wave” strategy, if supplies allow. It will set out its plans in more detail next week.

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Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said yesterday that the NHS would be ready at the start of next month if a jab were approved. He suggested that regulators would be able to give the go-ahead within days of final results.

Vaccination would be a mammoth logistical operation” and would involve the NHS working seven days a week to distribute supplies that must be kept at minus 70C. He promised that it would inject hope into millions of arms this winter”, telling MPs: The logistics are complex, the uncertainties are real and the scale of the job is vast, but I know that the NHS, brilliantly assisted by the armed services, will be up to the task.”

It came as:

• Plans to spend up to £43 billion on mass testing were revealed as the government began sending rapid results kits to 67 councils.

• A further 532 deaths were reported yesterday, the highest figure since May 12, and a further 20,412 cases.

• Hundreds of thousands of students could be tested in the last week of term to allow them home for Christmas.SPONSOREDThe future thinking financial healthcheck that puts you in controlHere’s why responsible investing is your best option in 2020

• Pilot schemes for using home tests every other day to avoid the need for contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases to isolate for 14 days are to begin.

Initial vaccine distribution plans are based on standard methods for winter flu and NHS chiefs have written to GPs saying that they should deliver a vaccination service seven days per week including bank holidays between 8am and 8pm if vaccine supply allows”.

Each of England’s 1,250 GP networks has been set a minimum target of administering one batch of 975 doses a week, equivalent to about 1.2 million doses nationally, enough for 600,000 people. Officials are optimistic that GPs could do more, and pharmacists, who typically deliver a fifth of flu vaccines, will also be used.

In addition, Mr Hancock said that doses would be delivered to care homes and that mass vaccination centres would be set up in car parks and sports halls. Sources said that this meant the total weekly vaccination capacity could be double” that of GPs by February, supplies permitting.

The government has a contract for 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which officials estimate would be enough for all 12 million over-65s plus three million health and social care workers in the programme’s first phase. Results from the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine, of which the government has bought 100 million doses, are expected soon and this would allow a wider programme from the spring once vulnerable people had been covered.

Mr Hancock said that after these two candidates it is next summer before the next vaccine candidate comes on stream and so the focus of the roll-out plan at the moment is on delivering the Pfizer and the Astrazeneca projects if they pass the safety tests”.

The second phase of the programme would be geared towards preventing hospital admissions. This could reduce the need for lockdowns by reducing the risk that the NHS would be overwhelmed. The final phase would be aimed at attaining herd immunity through vaccinating the rest of the adult population, although this is thought unlikely before the summer.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, said that there was a 70-80 per cent chance” of vaccinating all vulnerable groups by Easter, provided they don’t screw up the distribution of the vaccine”.

How quickly can the NHS start using the vaccine?
Officials have promised that the limiting factor will be the rate at which Pfizer supplies doses, a pledge that calls for a herculean effort from the NHS. Britain expects to receive as many as ten million doses before the end of the year, enough for five million people. According to Age UK, there are about 400,000 older people in care homes across the UK. Ideally, they will be the first in line. There is a caveat: we do not yet know how well the vaccine works in older people. We also do not know how long immunity will last. More trial data will have to be gathered and analysed.

Could you get the Pfizer jab privately?
Probably not. During the initial pandemic stage, our contracts are with the governments,” a Pfizer spokeswoman said yesterday.

Why are two injections needed?
The Pfizer jab needs to be given twice, with a three-week gap between the initial shot and the booster. This is a common strategy with vaccines, which ensures that the immune response that is stimulated is strong enough to fend off the disease. After one dose some people may not develop enough antibodies. Trials suggested that two shots of the Pfizer vaccine were better than one: antibody levels were far higher after the booster. Health chiefs would prefer a one and done” solution.

How about storing the vaccines — isn’t it complicated?
Yes, but Pfizer provided some details yesterday that suggest that the NHS will have more flexibility than had been thought. The vaccine will have to be kept at about minus 70C during shipping and Pfizer has developed a special container packed with dry ice that can keep the doses ultra-cold” for ten days. The company had said that once they were defrosted the vaccines could be stored in an ordinary fridge for only 24 hours. Yesterday it clarified that the doses would have an effective life of up to five days” when stored at 2C to 8C. The logistics will still be demanding but this will make life easier for GPs’ surgeries and other vaccination centres.

Who will get the vaccine first?
Boris Johnson has said that the decision has not been finalised. A provisional plan calls for people in care homes and care home workers to be first. Next come those over 80 and all health and social care workers, followed by all those 75 and older, then all those 65 and older. High-risk adults under 65 come next, followed by moderate-risk adults under 65. Then all those 60 and older, those 55 and older, and those 50 and older. This should cover the groups that accounted for 99 per cent of deaths in the first wave, health chiefs have said. A second phase will aim to protect key workers, starting with the oldest.

What about everybody else?
Whether healthy under-50s are offered a jab will depend on the vaccines that become available. Herd immunity, when enough of the population is protected to avoid explosive growth of new outbreaks, might require 90 per cent of the population to be injected. However, it could be achieved only if the vaccine prevented transmission. Data released by Pfizer suggests that its jab reduces only cases of symptomatic Covid-19. We do not know whether it reduces asymptomatic infections, and therefore reduces the spread of the disease.Share

One Response to “UK National Health Service plans to vaccinate one million every week”

  1. Nimal Says:

    I wonder if one needs to be vaccinated every year if this virus mutates?

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