Covid vaccine: NHS ready for Pfizer roll-out, says Matt Hancock

3 weeks ago

The NHS is ready to start providing the new coronavirus vaccine “as fast as safely possible”, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Asked whether it could be available by Christmas, he said that was “absolutely a possibility” – but he expected the mass roll-out “in the first part of next year”.

Mr Hancock said vaccination clinics would be open seven days a week, and he was giving GPs an extra £150m.

But he urged people to be patient.

“We just don’t know” how many people will need to be vaccinated before life can return to normal, Mr Hancock added.

He also said new rapid tests – which give results in less than an hour – will be made available across 66 local areas, after they were used in a mass testing trial in Liverpool.

It comes as figures showed the number of people dying continued to be above normal levels for this time of year, with 1,597 deaths mentioning Covid on the death certificate in the last week of October – up from 1,126 the week before.

On Monday, early results from the world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine showed it could prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid.

The vaccine – called an RNA vaccine – has been developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech and is one of 11 vaccines that are currently in the final stages of testing.

The companies now plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of November – and a limited number of people may get the vaccine this year.

The UK has already ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate up to 20 million people as each person will need two doses for it to work effectively.

But Boris Johnson has warned people not to “rely on this news as a solution” as it is still “very, very early days”.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said: “We still appeal this morning for people’s patience, firstly to follow existing rules, because this is still a deadly disease and this is not over yet.

“Even once we start to roll it out, we still need to look after ourselves, look after our community by following the rules and being careful to stop the spread of transmission.

“The NHS is ready, we’re prepared, I’ve put in the extra £150m today, the GPs are ready, we’re working with the pharmacists, the hospitals are going to play a very important role,” he said.

‘Mass roll-out in 2021’

Asked how many people would need to be vaccinated before life can return to normal, he said: “Well the answer to that is we just don’t know.

“So the trials can tell you if a vaccine is clinically safe and if it’s effective at protecting an individual from the disease. What we can’t know, until we’ve vaccinated a significant proportion of the population, is how much it stops the transmission of the disease.”

Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it would be “a mammoth logistical operation” and highlighted some of the challenges, including getting it from Belgium to the UK while not removing from a temperature of -70C more than four times.

Older care home residents and care home staff are at the top of a list from government scientific advisers of who would get immunised first, followed by health workers.

Mr Hancock said NHS staff would go into care homes to vaccinate residents, as well as setting up vaccination venues. Children would not be vaccinated, he said.

Prof Sir John Bell from Oxford University said: “I would worry about not giving this to as wide a percentage of the population as we can.”

“I’m more of the view that we need to vaccinate further into the population and vaccinate younger people as well, partly because we don’t really know what the long term effects of this disease are.”

The vaccine will not be released for use until it passes final safety tests and gets the go-ahead from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

BBC graphic

GPs have been told to prepare to give patients two vaccine doses – to be delivered between 21 and 28 days apart – during clinics that could run between 08:00 and 20:00 GMT seven days a week, said the BMA, which represents UK doctors.

It said it expected vaccine availability to be limited to begin with, meaning only small numbers of vaccine may be given in December, with most vaccinations taking place in early 2021.

The BMA said that, due to the logistics and delivery requirements, it was likely that groups of GP practices would need to work together with one “designated vaccination site”.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee in England, said GPs and practice nurses had a “proven track record of mass immunisation campaigns” and were the right people to be leading the effort once a coronavirus vaccine became available.

Get in touch banner

What questions do you have about the vaccine?

Presentational grey line

The Covid vaccine is the fastest ever vaccine to go from the drawing board to being proven highly effective.

But Prof Adam Finn, from Bristol University, said it was important to make clear that most of the Covid cases in the vaccine trial were probably relatively mild cases – and it was “a leap of faith” to assume it would also stop elderly people from getting seriously ill or dying.

“But I think we have to take that leap of faith, that’s the evidence we’ve got at this point and 90% is pretty good,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “It’s pretty likely that even if it’s less effective in elderly people than in younger people it will still work to some extent.”

Presentational grey line

Analysis box by Michelle Roberts, health editor

Cautious optimism is the tone of today.

Matt Hancock insists the NHS will be ready to start deploying a coronavirus vaccine as soon as humanly possible.

If regulators are able to give the green light in the next few weeks, some people could get their jab before Christmas – a most welcome gift for those at highest risk of severe Covid-19 illness.

But he doesn’t want people to get their hopes up too soon or assume life can now return to “normal”. It can’t.

It would be a colossal mistake to relax now and let the virus rip, say leading medical advisers.

Until and unless mass vaccination can happen, society needs to use the other weapons at its disposal to fight the virus and stop the spread.

That means sticking with the social distancing and face masks, and testing people who may have the virus and asking them to isolate.

The UK is still in the second wave and the actions taken by all of us now will influence how it plays out.

Presentational grey line

The government reported a further 21,350 coronavirus cases in the UK on Monday, along with 194 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

Data from the UK national statistics agencies showed the number of deaths was more than 11% higher than normally expected in the final week of October.

Although deaths usually do rise at this time of year, the data shows the second wave of the virus has pushed the death rate above the average seen over the past five years.

Banner image reading 'more about coronavirus'


Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire is in line to become the next region to pilot mass coronavirus testing.

The first scheme began in Liverpool last week and has seen more than 23,000 people get tested, with 154 people receiving positive results.

As well as the normal swab tests, the mass testing schemes use rapid “lateral flow” tests. These also use a swab but do not need to be sent to a lab and can give results within an hour.

The government is also sending 600,000 of the rapid tests out to 66 local directors of public health including “across Yorkshire, the West Midlands, other parts of the North West, and the whole of the North East”.

The NHS has also confirmed that its staff in England are to receive Covid-19 tests twice a week.

Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said he expected testing for asymptomatic NHS staff to be rolled out across the country by the end of next week.

Routine testing of NHS staff is already taking place in the areas hardest hit by the virus.

Around the BBC iPlayer banner

Around the BBC iPlayer footer

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

BBC News – Health


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »