News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 01 February 2021

Media Summary

COVID-19 vaccine offered to all care homes in England
BBC News, Editorial Team, 01 February

A COVID-19 vaccine has been offered to residents at every eligible care home in England, BBC News reports. Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the achievement, expected to be confirmed by official figures today, as a “crucial milestone”.

On Saturday a record 598,389 first jabs were given across the UK. It means nearly nine million people have received the first dose of a vaccine, with about 490,000 having received two jabs.

NHS England said more than 10,000 care homes with older residents had been offered vaccines, although a “small remainder” of homes had visits deferred by local public health directors for safety reasons during local outbreaks.

 

EU faces global criticism over curbs on vaccine exports
Financial Times, Sam Fleming & Michael Peel, 31 January

The Financial Times reports that Brussels has drawn international criticism for threatening the Irish border arrangements between the UK and the EU, in its attempt to curb vaccine exports.

The new rules implemented by the EU require manufacturers to obtain permission before shipping COVID-19 jabs outside the bloc. The measures give EU member states and the Commission the ability to block vaccine shipments from companies that also have contracts to supply the EU.

Canada and Japan both raised concerns over the new export rules, as did South Korea. Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng spoke to EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis to emphasise the importance of critical health and medical supply chains remaining “open and resilient”, according to a spokesperson.

The UK sought assurances from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that shipments of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines from Belgium across the Channel would not be cut off as a result of the new powers.

“We fully understand that some of our allies may have concerns and will work closely with them to ensure a speedy supply of vaccines,” one EU official said on Sunday. “We will work hard to avoid any knock-on effects on our partners and we remain committed to open markets to avoid any disruption of supply chains.”

This story was also reported in The Guardian and BBC News.

 

Public to consult on ‘seismic change’ hub-and-spoke model for pharmacy
Chemist + Druggist, Grace Lewis, 29 January

Chemist + Druggist reports that there will be a “full public consultation” on pharmacy moving to a hub-and-spoke dispensing model, to gauge opinion of this “seismic change” for the sector.

Legislative changes to allow independent pharmacies to operate a hub-and-spoke dispensing model were tabled as part of the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, first presented to parliament in February 2020.

However, recognising the potential impact on the sector of these legislative changes, Pharmacy Minister Jo Churchill confirmed the hub-and-spoke proposals have been removed from the bill and instead there will be a “full public consultation” on the proposals.

“The government will then report to parliament and include a summary of the concerns raised in the public consultation,” Ms Churchill said in a House of Commons debate. “To ensure that we get the right model to assist pharmacy going forward, we intend to be totally transparent,” she stressed.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

UK government secures additional 40 million doses of Valneva vaccine
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Department of Health and Social Care, Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Nadhim Zahawi MP, Alister Jack MP & Matt Hancock MP, 01 February

The UK Government has signed a deal for a further 40 million doses of Valneva’s promising vaccine candidate.

The latest deal will bolster long-term vaccine production in Scotland and brings the total UK vaccine portfolio to 407 million doses over the next two years.

The decision to purchase 40 million extra doses is based on the UK’s strategy to take a wide approach, using different technologies and viral targets to ensure the UK has the best chance of securing access to successful vaccines as quickly as possible. It will also give the UK future flexibility should it need to revaccinate any of the population.

You can read the full press release here.

 

Janssen publishes positive safety and efficacy data for single-dose COVID-19 vaccine
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Department of Health and Social Care, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Nadhim Zahawi MP, & Matt Hancock MP, 29 January

Janssen has published positive data from the phase 3 studies of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine candidate, showing it to be 66% effective overall in preventing Coronavirus in participants. The data did not report any significant safety concerns relating to the vaccine, with no serious adverse events in vaccine recipients.

The UK has secured 30 million doses of Janssen’s vaccine, with deliveries expected to arrive in the second half of this year if approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), who will review and analyse the relevant data to see if the vaccine meets their strict standards of safety and effectiveness.

You can read a government press release here.

 

House of Commons, Written Question, 28 January

Liam Byrne (Labour, Birmingham Hodge Hill): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans he has to use the 11,300 community pharmacies in England to administer the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at scale.

 

Full Coverage

COVID-19 vaccine offered to all care homes in England
BBC News, Editorial Team, 01 February

A COVID vaccine has been offered to residents at every eligible care home in England, the NHS has announced.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the achievement, expected to be confirmed by official figures on Monday, as a “crucial milestone”.

A target of 15 February has been set for the UK to vaccinate care home residents and carers, people over 70 and frontline care workers.

On Saturday a record 598,389 first jabs were given across the UK.

It means nearly nine million people have received the first dose of a vaccine, with about 490,000 having received two jabs.

NHS England said more than 10,000 care homes with older residents had been offered vaccines, although a “small remainder” of homes had visits deferred by local public health directors for safety reasons during local outbreaks.

These will be visited by vaccinators as soon as NHS staff are allowed to do so, it said.

Mr Johnson said vaccines were the “route out of the pandemic” but warned there will be “difficult moments to come” with the number of cases and people in hospital still “dangerously high”.

“Today marks a crucial milestone in our ongoing race to vaccinate the most vulnerable against this deadly disease,” he said.

The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) sets which groups are prioritised for vaccinations, with residents in care homes and their carers in the top group.

All those over 70 years old, clinically extremely vulnerable people and frontline health and social care workers make up the top four groups which the government has said should be inoculated by mid-February.

Social Care Minister Helen Whately said the vaccine had been offered to every care home in England where it was possible for teams to go in.

“Any care home that hasn’t been contacted, just let me know and I will personally follow up,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Asked about care home staff that refused the vaccine, she said “at the moment” the government was trying to “educate and encourage… and reassure” people who had reservations.

She also said there were no plans to give care home residents their second jab quicker to allow visiting but the government was working on “what we can do to enable visiting” again.

Asked if care home visits would have to wait until residents had received both doses, she told BBC Breakfast: “I’m not saying that”, before adding that “at the moment it’s too soon” to allow indoor visiting as it takes time “to build up immunity”.

In Scotland, the government said it expected to complete the first stage of its rollout, including care homes, by 5 February.

Around 75% of care home residents in Wales have had their first jab, while in Northern Ireland the government has said 100% of care homes have received a first dose.

The news was welcomed by the care sector, with Care UK Chief Executive Andrew Knight saying almost all the company’s residents had been offered a jab and “the majority of our colleagues” had been vaccinated.

However, some care home staff have refused to have the vaccine due to “cultural issues”, the National Care Association’s executive chairman said.

Nadra Ahmed also told BBC Breakfast: “We have to convince people that this vaccine is for them. That it’s for the staff to protect them and therefore protect the services they work in.”

Sam Monaghan, Chief Executive of leading care home group MHA, said the government’s decision to increase the gap between the first and second doses of the vaccines to 12 weeks had been “difficult” and he hoped the second dose could be accelerated “so that we can look at reuniting residents with their relatives”.

He also called for the government to provide “clarity” on what would be possible in care homes once people have had both doses of the vaccination, adding: “People have been separated for such a long time.”

Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing at Alzheimer’s Society, said it was “great” the milestone had been met but she remained concerned that the staff vaccination rollout “has not been nearly so effective”.

“The most pressing question now is how and when can care homes restart safe, meaningful visits. Combined with PPE and testing, isn’t one jab enough? If not, what else needs to be in place? Another 12-week wait is unacceptable for people dying of loneliness,” she said.

Liz Kendall, Shadow Social Care Minister, said it was “very good news” that vaccines had been offered to all elderly care home residents but ministers “must leave no stone overturned to vaccinate all social care staff within the next two weeks”.

Labour has previously called for teachers to be moved up the JCVI priority list and said February half-term should be used to vaccinate teaching staff.

The vaccinations committee has said early vaccination of certain professions should be considered – but only once those in the top nine priority groups have been offered a first jab.

Dr Mike Tildesley, an infectious disease expert who advises the government, said that if the UK continues the current pace with vaccinations – and jabs are shown to prevent transmission, not just severe infection – measures could begin to be eased in March.

“We need to be very careful,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme . “Hopefully by the summer we can get back to something pretty close to what we have seen before the pandemic as normal.”

Vaccines would need to be “pretty good” at blocking transmission “to avoid a resurgence” of the virus when measures are eased, Dr Tildesley added, with research due on this over the next month.

A further 587 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID test were reported on Sunday.

It takes the UK’s total by that measure to 106,158, although the number of reported deaths tends to be lower over the weekend.

 

EU faces global criticism over curbs on vaccine exports
Financial Times, Sam Fleming & Michael Peel, 31 January

This article is subject to copyright terms and conditions. Please access the full article here.

 

Public to consult on ‘seismic change’ hub-and-spoke model for pharmacy
Chemist + Druggist, Grace Lewis, 29 January

There will be a “full public consultation” on pharmacy moving to a hub-and-spoke dispensing model, to gauge opinion of this “seismic change” for the sector, ministers have said.

Legislative changes to allow independent pharmacies to operate a hub-and-spoke dispensing model were tabled as part of the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, first presented to parliament in February 2020.

The bill – which is in its final stages of approval, before it becomes law – also included proposals to allow large pharmacy chains with automated hubs to charge smaller chains and independent pharmacies “prescription assembly services”.

However, recognising the potential impact on the sector of these legislative changes, Pharmacy Minister Jo Churchill confirmed the hub-and-spoke proposals have been removed from the bill and instead there will be a “full public consultation” on the proposals.

“The government will then report to parliament and include a summary of the concerns raised in the public consultation,” Ms Churchill said in a House of Commons debate on Wednesday (January 27).

“To ensure that we get the right model to assist pharmacy going forward, we intend to be totally transparent,” she stressed.

Earlier in the debate, shadow health minister Alex Norris stressed the importance of a “wide-ranging consultation with all manner of stakeholders” on something that will be a “seismic change for community pharmacy”.

Legislative changes around hub-and-spoke dispensing were first mooted with the service-led pharmacy funding contract for England, announced in 2019.

An impact assessment published alongside the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill in 2020 said: “The government’s vision for community pharmacy is that it should provide expanded clinical services…helping to relieve pressures on other parts of the system.

“To achieve this, dispensing needs to become more efficient to free up pharmacists’ time for other activities. Permitting all pharmacies to access more efficient hub-and-spoke dispensing is part of the government’s strategy to support this transformation.”

While recognising the costs of setting up a hub-and-spoke dispensing model, changing business processes, IT and logistics and staffing the facilities, the government said benefits include “reduced staff time…potential for reduced rates of dispensing errors and potential for a calmer working environment at the spoke pharmacy”.

In its submission to ministers last year, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said that claims about the benefits of the hub-and-spoke model “are overblown” and that it could reduce “competition and choice in the pharmaceutical wholesale market without a level playing field”.

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) – which represents the UK’s largest multiples and supermarket pharmacies – hosted a virtual event last October to “help parliamentarians understand more about the automation of medicines assembly, and the role of hub-and-spoke models”.

Attendees to the event – which included all-party pharmacy group (APPG) chair Jackie Doyle-Price, Department of Health and Social Care head of pharmacy Jeanette Howe and the NPA’s Neil Bhayani – discussed the issues that would need to be addressed before legislative changes were made.

These included: original pack dispensing; investment from the government to fund the widespread infrastructure; and fair community pharmacy funding to “improve the future viability of community pharmacies.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 01 February 2021

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