News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 04 February 2021

Media Summary

COVID-19: New Oxford vaccine ‘ready by the autumn’ to tackle mutations

BBC News, Nick Triggle & Philippa Roxby, 03 February

BBC News reports that a vaccine produced by the Oxford-AstraZeneca partnership to tackle Coronavirus variants could be ready to deploy by the autumn. Professor Andy Pollard from Oxford University said tweaking a vaccine was a relatively quick process and would only need small trials before roll-out.

There is still strong evidence existing vaccines work well against the mutations that have emerged, although their overall effectiveness may be weakened a little. Results released by Oxford University showed evidence that the vaccine can reduce the chances of people catching and passing on the virus, which has always been uncertain. The data showed vaccination with the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab could cut transmission by up to 67%.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the results were “absolutely superb” and showed vaccines are “the way out of this pandemic” but that the “on-going challenge” would be for vaccine manufacturers to keep up with what the virus is doing.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

World-first COVID-19 alternating dose vaccine study launches in UK
Department of Health and Social Care, 04 February

Patients taking part in a new clinical study launching today will receive different COVID-19 vaccines for their first or second dose. The study will be the first in the world to determine the effects of using different vaccines for the first and second dose – for example, using Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s vaccine for the first dose, followed by Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine for the second.

A same-dose regimen is currently implemented for the national COVID-19 vaccination programme, and there are no current plans for this to change. Anyone who has received either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccination as part of the UK-wide delivery plan will not be affected by this study. However, should the study show promising results, the government may consider reviewing the vaccine regimen approach, but only if proven to be safe and recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Minister for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “This is a hugely important clinical trial that will provide us with more vital evidence on the safety of these vaccines when used in different ways. This is another great step forwards for British science, expertise and innovation, backed by government funding – and I look forward to seeing what it produces.”

You can read the full press release here.

 

More than 10 million people receive first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in UK
Department of Health and Social Care, 03 February

More than 10 million people in the UK have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, marking a significant milestone for the largest vaccination programme. Figures out yesterday show the NHS vaccinated a total of 10,021,471 million people between 8 December 2020 and 2 February 2021, including 9 in 10 people aged 75 and over in England. These 4 groups account for 88% of COVID deaths, which is why the vaccines will play an important role in reducing the demand on the NHS and saving lives.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This terrific achievement is testament to the monumental effort of NHS workers, volunteers and the armed forces who have been working tirelessly in every corner of the UK to deliver the largest vaccination programme in our history. Every jab makes us all a bit safer – I want to thank everyone for playing their part.”

You can read a full statement here.

 

House of Lords, Written Answer, 03 February

Lord Scriven (Liberal Democrat): To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the average waiting time to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in (1) mass vaccination hubs, (2) GP surgeries, and (3) community pharmacies.

Lord Callanan (Conservative): The UK COVID-19 Vaccines Delivery Plan sets out how the Government will work with the NHS, devolved administrations, local councils, and the Armed Forces to deliver the largest vaccination programme in British history.

As of 3 February, over ten million people across the UK have been vaccinated with the first dose of the vaccine. We continue to work to meet our target of vaccinating all four priority groups, as advised by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, by 15 February 2021.

Vaccines are a precious resource in very high demand across the world; therefore, for security reasons it is not possible to provide detail about the size of our supplies and exact detail about deliveries.

 

Next Steps on the Northern Ireland Protocol
Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, 02 February

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, has written to Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission about the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Gove requests, amongst other articles, that the arrangements on medicines agreed last December should be extended for a further year at least to 1 January 2023, ensuring that medicine supply chains are not impacted by further barriers to trade. The letter continues to say that the UK and EU must also immediately resolve for Northern Ireland patients all outstanding practical issues on medicines; and set out a long-term approach that will ensure no barriers of any kind to the movement of medicines into Northern Ireland.

The full letter can be found here.

 

Full Coverage

COVID-19: New Oxford vaccine ‘ready by the autumn’ to tackle mutations
BBC News, Nick Triggle & Philippa Roxby, 03 February

A vaccine to tackle the coronavirus variants could be ready to deploy by the autumn should it be needed, the Oxford-AstraZeneca team says.

Prof Andy Pollard, from Oxford University, said tweaking a vaccine was a relatively quick process and would only need small trials before roll-out.

It comes as the UK announced more than 10 million people had received a jab.

There is still strong evidence existing vaccines work well against the mutations that have emerged.

Although their overall effectiveness may be weakened a little.

The comments came after results released by the team showed the first evidence the vaccine can reduce the chances of people catching and passing on the virus, which has always been uncertain.

The data, which has not yet been published or reviewed, showed vaccination with the Oxford-AZ jab could cut transmission by up to 67%.

This means the vaccine could significantly slow the spread of the virus, potentially allowing restrictions to be lifted more quickly, as well as protect people from becoming seriously ill and dying with COVID-19.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the results were “absolutely superb” and showed vaccines are “the way out of this pandemic” but that the “on-going challenge” would be for vaccine manufacturers to keep up with what the virus is doing.

He described the fact that 10 million people had received their first dose of a vaccine as a “hugely significant milestone” and said “every jab makes us all a bit safer”.

There is most concern about the South African variant, which shows signs of being able to escape some of the protective effect of the vaccines. There are already signs this has begun circulating in some parts of the UK, prompting surge testing to be introduced into parts of London, Surrey, Kent, Hertfordshire and Southport.

The mutation behind this variant – called E484K – has also been detected in some of the infections caused by UK strains that are circulating in parts of Bristol and Liverpool.

Prof Pollard said his team were already looking at updating the vaccine to make it more effective against the mutations that are being seen.

“I think the actual work on designing a new vaccine is very, very quick because it’s essentially just switching out the genetic sequence for the spike protein.

“And then there’s manufacturing to do and then a small scale study. So all of that can be completed in a very short period of time, and the autumn is really the timing for having new vaccines available for use,” he said.

It’s not yet clear how the new vaccine would be given to people, but it is possible it could take the form of a one-dose booster which is updated and rolled out every year or so.

Sir Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President of Biopharmaceuticals Research and Development at AstraZeneca, added: “Our ambition is to be ready for the next round of immunisations that may be necessary as we go into next winter. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

He added the manufacturing process would also be easier as plants would be fully up to speed by then.

The trials that would need to be run are only likely to involve a few hundred people as the team would only need to check safety and that a good immune response is generated by carrying out blood tests.

There were a further 1,322 deaths in the UK reported on Wednesday within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus, bringing the total number of people who have died by this measure to 109,335.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 04 February 2021

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