Health

Covid vaccine priority list: Millions of Brits could be denied jab ‘for some time’ amid supply fears


FEARS that millions of Brits won’t get any more doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid jab have been prompted after NHS staff were pushed down the priority list.

The UK is set to receive 800,000 vaccines but experts have now warned that this batch “might be our lot for some time”.

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NHS Providers has said supply of the jabs have only been assured for December and January

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NHS Providers has said supply of the jabs have only been assured for December and January

It was thought NHS workers would be prioritised for the Pfizer/BionTech jab when it is rolled out next week across 50 hospital hubs.

But it has since been revealed that care home workers and the over-80s will now take priority for the Covid vaccine over NHS staff.

The UK is expecting 10 million doses by the end of the year, but Sean Marrett, the chief commercial officer of BioNTech on Wednesday highlighted that the UK would get just five million doses by the end of the year.

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson said that the first batch “could be the only batch we receive for some time.”

The 800,000 doses is enough to vaccinate 400,000 as two doses of the jab are needed and NHS Providers stated that supplies have only been assured for December and January.

The first vaccine arrived last night after being transported from Belgium.

Boxes of the jab were checked in Belgium before being shipped to the UK - where they arrived last night

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Boxes of the jab were checked in Belgium before being shipped to the UK – where they arrived last nightCredit: AP:Associated Press

‘MORE TO COME’

Business Secretary Alok Sharma this morning said that “some” of the 800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are in the UK, adding that he is “confident” that all of them will be available when the vaccination programme starts.

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Speaking to BBC Breakfast he said that Brits can expect more of the Pfizer jabs to come in by the end of the year.

He added: “But what we have always said is that the bulk of the vaccination programme will take place next year.

“We’ve, of course, got the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that we’re talking about for deployment right now but AstraZeneca is also being reviewed by the MHRA.

“We’ll see what they pronounce and then, of course, we’ve got 100 million of those on order, and a lot of that is being manufactured – and the fill and finish – in the UK.”

Alok Sharma today said that the UK will undertake the bulk of vaccinations next year

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Alok Sharma today said that the UK will undertake the bulk of vaccinations next year

The jabs that arrived last night will now undergo further checks before being distributed to 50 hospital hubs across the UK.

And officials are increasingly confident millions of elderly people — including those in care homes — will get it by Christmas.

Last night regulators indicated they will allow packs of 975 doses to be split so they can be taken to individual homes.

This would remove a major barrier to distribution.

Health chiefs have said current restrictions around the vaccine have created a “logistical nightmare”.

It must be transported at -70C, moved only four times and given from a tray of 975 vials that cannot be split.

CLEAR PRIORITIES

In order to limit the amount of times the jabs are moved, it is thought that some care home residents and their carers will travel to hospitals to be vaccinated.

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Mr Hopson yesterday posted a series of tweets and said that care home workers and the over-80s would now be prioritised over health service staff in the next few weeks.

He said: “JCVI prioritisation clear. Care home residents and their carers. Then over-80s and frontline health/care workers.

“Yesterday’s combination of JCVI prioritisation/MHRA authorisation conditions [on the vaccine’s licence] therefore changes previous, unofficial, assumption [that] hospitals would concentrate initially on staff.”

Mr Hopson also said: “Our expectation is that the small number of NHS staff who have been booked for a vaccine will receive it, but hospitals will review those bookings in light of the JCVI guidance on prioritising the most at-risk staff.”

Scotland has said it will start sending out batches on December 14 but the MHRA has said that NHS England needs to wait for full approval before doing so.

Jeane Freeman, the Scottish Health Secretary, told the Scottish Parliament: “Following detailed discussions led by our chief pharmaceutical officer, we now have confirmation on the basis of the stability data that the Pfizer vaccine can be transported in an unfrozen state for up to 12 hours and can be stored undiluted for up to five days.

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“I’m also pleased to confirm that under certain conditions, we can pack down to smaller pack sizes, both of which makes this vaccine more usable with minimum wastage for care home residents and for our older citizens.

“So in effect, we can take the vaccine to them or close to them. And we will begin that exercise from December 14.”

NHS Providers said the first jabs will be given on Tuesday and have urged hospitals to “identify as many people over the age of 80 that they can vaccinate”.

Covid-19 vaccine: Who will get it? when and how?





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