News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 06 January 2021

Media Summary

Exclusive: Pharmacies’ offer to give Covid jabs snubbed by ministers

The Telegraph, Bill Gardner, 05 January

The Telegraph reports that high street pharmacies are “desperate” to roll out more than one million doses of the Oxford vaccine every week but have not been contacted by Government to make such arrangements.

Simon Dukes, the Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, questioned why the NHS was still searching for vaccinators when his industry stood ready to help. He said there were around 11,400 pharmacies across the country that already administer millions of flu jabs every year, with the capability to vaccinate around 1.3 million people against COVID every week.

Mr Dukes said pharmacies accepted they did not have the cold storage capacity to store the Pfizer vaccine but were well equipped to distribute the AstraZeneca jab, which can be stored in a standard fridge.

An NHS spokesman said: “Pharmacies are already working with GPs to deliver the vaccine in many areas of the country and, as more supply becomes available, community pharmacists able to administer large numbers of vaccine will be the first to play a role in the NHS’s phased vaccination programme, the biggest in the health service’s history.”

 

PART-TIME JAB: No Covid vaccines to be delivered to hospitals on Sundays – despite target of two million Brits to get jab each week

The Sun, Alex Winter, 05 January

The Sun reports that COVID vaccines won’t be delivered to medics on Sundays, despite Boris Johnson’s vow to get 13 million of the most vulnerable Brits inoculated within weeks. Furthermore, standard operating procedures issued to NHS Trusts for ordering vaccine supplies from PHE warn that next-day deliveries can only be expected between Monday and Friday – as long as orders are placed before 11.55am.

Officials have reportedly warned that an emergency delivery schedule isn’t an option, with orders after cut-off not processed until the following day. In response, Michael Brodie, Interim Chief Executive of PHE, told The Sun: “We are working around the clock to distribute millions of doses all over the UK and can deliver as much available vaccine as the NHS needs.

“We run a seven-day-a-week service and have fulfilled 100 per cent of orders from the NHS on time and in full – with routine next-day deliveries six days a week as agreed with the NHS and the capability to send orders on Sundays if required.”

This story was also reported in The Telegraph.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

Exclusive: Pharmacies’ offer to give Covid jabs snubbed by ministers

The Telegraph, Bill Gardner, 05 January

High street pharmacies are “desperate” to roll out more than one million doses of the Oxford vaccine every week but have been snubbed by the Government, senior industry leaders have revealed.

Ministers have been urged to deploy an army of thousands of trained vaccinators at pharmacies including Lloyds and Boots to help deliver the jabs rather than relying on GPs, nurses and retired volunteers.

Simon Dukes, the Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, which represents high street pharmacies during talks with the Government, questioned why the NHS was “scrabbling around” for vaccinators when his industry stood ready to help.

He said there were around 11,400 pharmacies across the country that already administer millions of flu jabs every year, with the capability to vaccinate around 1.3 million people against COVID every week.

At a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, Boris Johnson announced that more than 1.3 million people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 across the UK so far, including 23 per cent of all over-80s in England.

But with the milestone of one million jabs reached on December 27, this suggests the current rate of vaccinations is just 30,000 a day – a tenth of what will be needed to hit the target of vaccinating 13.4 million people by mid-February.

Amid increasing questions over the urgency of the UK’s planned rollout, it emerged that there are five million doses of the Pfizer jab yet to be used, despite it being cleared over a month ago, and 3.5 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab held up waiting to pass the regulator’s safety checks.

The pharmacists’ offer of help echoes the situation at the start of the roll-out of testing when private labs were overlooked, leading to months of delays.

Mr Dukes told The Telegraph: “Rather than scrabbling around trying to find retired GPs and nurses and anyone who has possibly dated skills, you’ve got an army of thousands of pharmacists up and down the country who administer the flu jab every winter.

“We’ve been telling the NHS that we’re ready, willing and desperate to help. But we’ve been met by a de facto silence.

“We’ve got 11,400 pharmacies with at least one trained pharmacist. So if we vaccinated 20 people a day, that would be more than 1.3 million every week. You need the big hubs, of course you do, but we can help in a substantial way.”

At the Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson insisted the vaccine would be rolled out “as fast as we possibly can”. He said: “Yes, it is a huge effort – the biggest vaccination programme in the history of this country.”

The Prime Minister said the programme will require the combined efforts of the NHS and the Armed Forces and that every part of Government is working “absolutely flat out” on the roll-out, adding that the rate-limiting factor is “making sure that we can get enough vaccine where we want it fast enough”.

Further details on the number of vaccinations carried out will be given on Thursday and will be released daily from Monday, Mr Johnson said. He detailed the hundreds of vaccine sites that will deliver the jabs, the vast majority of which are GP-led centres and hospitals rather than run by the private sector.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, cautioned that the vaccine timetable was “realistic but not easy”, adding: “The NHS is going to have to use multiple channels to get this out, but they are very determined to do this. But that does not make it easy.”

Meanwhile, documents seen by The Telegraph show that Public Health England has decided not to deliver vaccine supplies to hospitals on Sundays despite the Prime Minister’s pledge to use “every second” to put an “invisible shield” around the elderly and vulnerable as fast as possible.

Other challenges said to be holding up supplies include red tape around recruiting volunteer vaccinators and the time taken by the MHRA regulator to test batches of vaccine.

NHS England announced this week that community pharmacies will start administering vaccines to patients in England from next Monday, beginning with three Covid vaccination sites at Boots stores in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester.

Nadhim Zahawi, the Vaccines Minister, is due to discuss plans for further pharmacy sites with industry leaders next week. An NHS source said the plan had been to initially focus on “the big ones” capable of delivering up to 1,000 doses every seven days.

But Mr Dukes said thousands of smaller pharmacies across the country could have been readied months ago to start rolling out millions of jabs as soon as vaccines were approved.

“There’s a sense within the NHS, whereby they start to think about how we’re going to do this once we know for sure that the approval has been given,” he said. “I think that was the wrong approach. We could have been ready for this. It’s perhaps indicative of what we’ve seen throughout this crisis, of sluggishness in terms of the ability to be agile, and to move quickly.

Last week it was revealed that one in four people in England live in an area with no vaccination centre, with eight million people facing a round trip of more than 10 miles to get their jab. Mr Dukes said journey times could be cut drastically if ministers made use of more than 11,400 community pharmacies around the country.

“I think if you ask Mrs Jones or Mrs Patel, who has to catch perhaps two buses to get there to have her jab and then come back again, risking catching this disease on the way, I think she’d much rather go to her local Boots or an independent pharmacy to get it done there,” he said. “It’s the ability to walk in from the street, as opposed to travelling many miles.

Mr Dukes said pharmacies accepted they did not have the cold storage capacity to store the Pfizer vaccine but were well equipped to distribute the AstraZeneca jab, which can be stored in a standard fridge.

He urged the NHS to loosen its grip on the vaccine rollout and let the private sector carry some of the burden, saying: “We’ve got an in-built distribution mechanism, which is used many times a day to get medicines from distribution hubs to frontline pharmacies.

“That’s why the storage areas in pharmacies are quite small. We can get supplies quickly when we need them. But you have to look at how the NHS views this army of contracted clinicians that it has working for them. There are some questions about how that’s viewed within the top echelons of the NHS. You can’t control a team of 11,400 contractors in the same ways you can perhaps control your own staff.”

An NHS spokesman said: “Pharmacies are already working with GPs to deliver the vaccine in many areas of the country and, as more supply becomes available, community pharmacists able to administer large numbers of vaccine will be the first to play a role in the NHS’s phased vaccination programme, the biggest in the health service’s history.”

 

PART-TIME JAB: No Covid vaccines to be delivered to hospitals on Sundays – despite target of two million Brits to get jab each week

The Sun, Alex Winter, 05 January

COVID vaccines won’t be delivered to medics on Sundays, it’s reported – despite Boris Johnson’s vow to get 13million of the most vulnerable Brits inoculated within weeks.

Public Health England (PHE) officials won’t work one day a week, according to leaked documents, amid concerns the new national lockdown could stretch on for months to come.

New guidance issued to NHS Trusts and seen by the Telegraph warn the jabs won’t be issued on Sundays or after agreed ‘cut-off points’ every lunchtime – even if supplies run low.

Elsewhere, the paper reports that high street pharmacies are desperate to roll out more than a million doses of the Oxford vaccine every week – but have been snubbed by the Government.

As the country goes into a strict March-style lockdown, the PM revealed that 1.3m have already had a jab.

A quarter of all those over 80 have received their first dose.

And he promised that the Government’s new strategy to give out as many first doses as possible was the right one – and would save lives.

But it’s since emerged that, despite Mr Johnson’s pledge to use “every second” to put an “invisible shield” around the nation’s most vulnerable, the roll-out could be slowed.

Standard operating procedures issued to NHS Trusts for ordering vaccine supplies from PHE warn that next-day deliveries can only be expected between Monday and Friday – as long as orders are placed before 11.55am, the paper reports.

New requests for the vaccine made on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings won’t arrive until Monday.

Meanwhile, orders placed on Saturday afternoons won’t be delivered until Tuesday, it’s claimed.

And officials have reportedly warned that an emergency delivery schedule isn’t an option, with orders after cut-off not processed until the following day.

Michael Brodie, Interim Chief Executive of PHE, told The Sun: “We run a seven-day-a-week service and have fulfilled 100 per cent of orders from the NHS on time and in full – with routine next-day deliveries six days a week as agreed with the NHS and the capability to send orders on Sundays if required

“We are working around the clock to distribute millions of doses all over the UK and can deliver as much available vaccine as the NHS needs.”

Ministers have also been urged to consider deploying an army of trained vaccinators at Boots and Lloyds, rather than relying on exhausted NHS GPs and nurses.

Pharmacies claim their attempts to offer support have been spurned.

During a press conference from Downing Street tonight, Mr Johnson said any delays in vaccine supplies are being caused by safety checks.

The AstraZeneca/Oxford jab is currently being rolled out safely across the country, but batches must be checked for safety before they are handed out, he said.

“The rate limiting factor at the moment is making sure that we can get enough vaccine, where we want it fast enough,” he said.

“One of the problems is that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has just come on stream, needs to be properly batch tested, properly approved before it can be put into people’s arms and this is just a process that takes time to do.

“But we will be ratcheting it up over the next days and weeks.”

The Government has promised to deliver two million vaccines a week to lift tight new restrictions on Brits as urgently as possible.

Under the current lockdown, which will go before Parliament tomorrow, household mixing is banned, non-essential shops have been shuttered and international arrivals must test negative for Covid 72 hours before passing through British airports.

The PM and his ministers have pinned their hopes on the approved jabs as a super-infectious mutant strain runs rampant in every region of England.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty today revealed that one in every 50 Brits now has coronavirus, while hospital admissions are 40 per cent higher than at the peak of the first wave in April 2020.

In brighter news, millions more doses will reach vaccine centres around the country in the coming day, the Times reports.

Pfizer has about five million doses available in vials and ready for use in the UK, while AstraZeneca has four million in vials.

However, of that number, 3.5m still need safety approval before use.

Officials say there are 13.4m Brits who fall into the top four priority categories for the jab, and vaccinating them all would prevent around 88 per cent of deaths.

The private sector has mobilised to support the NHS with the vaccination programme.

Hundreds of Best Western hotels could be turned into ‘cottage hospitals’ to ease the strain.

Plans sent to the Cabinet Office this week reveal the sites would handle everything from pre-surgery assessments to IV treatments, such as dialysis, as well as MRI and CTI scans and post-Covid recovery support.

Meanwhile, pub and bar companies including Young’s, Marston’s and cafe-bar chain Loungers say they’ll offer their sites as jab centres amid the Government’s vaccine roll-out.

And Boots will initially open three jab sites in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester to start giving the jabs.

A Tesco subsidiary which normally supplies restaurants has already offered up its network of refrigerated lorries and warehouses to help transport vaccines.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 06 January 2021

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