News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 08 February 2021

Media Summary

NHS plans for annual Coronavirus vaccinations
Financial Times, Sarah Neville & Jim Pickard, 07 February

The Financial Times reports that the NHS is planning a mass campaign of booster jabs against new variants of Coronavirus as early as the autumn, in what the Vaccines Minister suggested would become an annual effort to prevent COVID-19 as the virus keeps mutating.

High-street pharmacists and retired doctors who were not enlisted in the first phase of the vaccination programme could be involved in the effort to protect the UK against new strains, according to people familiar with the logistics.

Nadhim Zahawi, the Vaccines Minister, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the Government was expecting annual inoculations to take place every autumn in much the same way as flu prevention, adding: “Where you look at what variant of virus is spreading around the world, you rapidly produce a variant of vaccine, and then begin to vaccinate and protect the nation.”

In a statement the NHS said it had “mobilised efficiently and speedily to ensure that new vaccines and treatments are rolled out as they become available”. NHS leaders believe that the timing of the extra shots means they could be delivered alongside the annual seasonal flu vaccinations long offered to over-65s, and for which eligibility was last year extended to all over-50s.

This story was also reported in The Independent.

 

Free provision of vaccines is preventing criminals from infiltrating rollout, say UK police
The Guardian, Mark Townsend, 07 February

The Guardian reports that the UK’s rapid vaccine rollout is being protected from the threat of serious organised crime and corruption thanks to the centralised systems of the NHS, which help safeguard it from attempts to infiltrate its supply chain according to the National Crime Agency.

But it was the NHS’s principle of providing free treatment for all that was the most crucial factor in protecting the so far successful vaccine rollout, particularly when compared with countries that relied on private healthcare and were more vulnerable to fake vaccines and fraud.

“You can’t buy the vaccine and you can’t sell it, that from a clear public messaging point of view makes it easier,” said Ben Russell, Deputy Director of the NCA’s National Economic Crime Centre. “Also you know it’s real because it’s being administered by the National Health Service and they’re not going to ask for your bank details or turn up at your house unannounced.”

His comments coincide with the latest data from Action Fraud, showing there have been 580 reports of attempted vaccine fraud, but these appear to be low level opportunistic attempts to defraud the public rather than organised crime.

 

All over-50s in UK to be offered vaccine by May
BBC News, Editorial Team, 06 February

All adults aged 50 and over should have been offered a Coronavirus vaccine by May, BBC News reports. The UK had given a first jab to nearly 11 million people as of last Thursday and is aiming to reach 15 million vaccinations by 15 February.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a lot of things would “have to go right” to hit the May target for all over-50s. He added that supply was the “most difficult” limiting factor in the roll out.

However, he said the government was on track to vaccinate the first four priority groups by the middle of the month, these include the over-70s, frontline health and care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

There is growing confidence in the UK supply chain, with the bulk of supplies now coming from UK-based plants, while the first batches of the Moderna vaccine – of which the UK has ordered 17 million doses – will start to arrive before Easter.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

NHS plans for annual Coronavirus vaccinations
Financial Times, Sarah Neville & Jim Pickard, 07 February

This article is subject to copyright terms and conditions. You can access the article here.

 

Free provision of vaccines is preventing criminals from infiltrating rollout, say UK police
The Guardian, Mark Townsend, 07 February

The UK’s rapid vaccine rollout is being protected from the threat of serious organised crime and corruption by the structure and principles of the NHS, senior police officers say.

The National Crime Agency, which is monitoring any attempt by organised syndicates to profiteer from the Coronavirus vaccine programme, said the centralised systems of the NHS helped safeguard it from attempts to infiltrate its supply chain.

But it was the NHS’s principle of providing free treatment for all that was the most crucial factor in protecting the so far successful vaccine rollout, particularly when compared with countries that relied on private healthcare and were more vulnerable to fake vaccines and fraud.

“You can’t buy the vaccine and you can’t sell it, that from a clear public messaging point of view makes it easier,” said Ben Russell, Deputy Director of the NCA’s National Economic Crime Centre. “Also you know it’s real because it’s being administered by the National Health Service and they’re not going to ask for your bank details or turn up at your house unannounced.”

His comments coincide with the latest data from Action Fraud, which is overseen by the City of London Police, showing there have been 580 reports of attempted vaccine fraud, but these appear to be low level opportunistic attempts to defraud the public rather than organised crime.

Recently the government launched an information campaign reminding the public that the NHS would not ask for payment because the “vaccine is free”.

Figures from the City of London Police, which specialises in fraud investigations, also reveal they are aware of more than 8,200 vaccine related phishing emails, when criminals attempt to trick users into revealing personal data.

Concerns that transnational narcotics syndicates may attempt to use their supply chains to move into the illicit distribution of COVID vaccines have, said Russell, proved unfounded.

In December Interpol issued a global alert to global law enforcement agencies warning them that organised crime networks may target Coronavirus vaccines physically and online.

The international police coordination agency said the pandemic had prompted “unprecedented opportunistic and predatory criminal behaviour” and warned of a new wave of criminal activity “in relation to the falsification, theft and illegal advertising of COVID-19 vaccines”.

 

All over-50s in UK to be offered vaccine by May
BBC News, Editorial Team, 06 February

All adults aged 50 and over should have been offered a Coronavirus vaccine by May, Downing Street has confirmed.

Previously ministers had said it was their “ambition” to vaccinate the first nine priority groups by the spring.

The UK had given a first jab to nearly 11 million people as of Thursday and is aiming to reach 15 million vaccinations by 15 February.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a lot of things would “have to go right” to hit the May target for all over-50s.

He said supply was the “most difficult” limiting factor in the roll out.

But he said the government was on track to vaccinate the first four priority groups by the middle of the month, these include the over-70s, frontline health and care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

The top nine priority vaccination groups – which are set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – also includes people aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions.

Mr Hancock also said it was “still too early to say” when restrictions could be lifted and warned the health service was still under pressure.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, in a Twitter video, that on 22 February he would “set out the beginnings of our roadmap for a way forward for the whole country as the vaccine programme intensifies and, as more and more people acquire immunity, a steady programme for beginning to unlock”.

He also warned that these were still “early days” and rates of infection in the country were “still very high”.

It comes after Mark Harper, Chairman of the COVID Recovery Group made up of Conservative MPs who want lockdown to be eased, said it would be “almost impossible to justify having any restrictions in place” once the over-50s had been vaccinated.

Prof Graham Medley, who is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, earlier said the government should avoid “setting dates” for lifting lockdown and focus on criteria, such as case rates, rather than a calendar.

A further 1,014 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported on Friday, taking the total by that measure to 111,264.

There have been 19,114 more positive cases of Coronavirus recorded, while another 480,560 people received their first dose of a vaccine – taking the total to 10,971,047 across the UK.

Coronavirus cases are showing clear signs of falling across the UK, the latest figures suggest, and the R number – the average number of people that someone with COVID-19 will go on to infect – has dropped slightly to between 0.7 and 1.

In a press release confirming May’s local elections will go ahead, the Cabinet Office said: “The UK’s vaccination programme is planned to have reached all nine priority cohorts by May, meaning that the government can commit to go ahead with these polls with confidence.”

BBC Health Correspondent Nick Triggle said, while the NHS has the staff, volunteers and clinics needed to vaccinate the 15 million people in the next priority groups, vaccine production was a biological process so there were no guarantees about how much could be grown.

But our correspondent said there was growing confidence in the UK supply chain, with the bulk of supplies now coming from UK-based plants, while the first batches of the Moderna vaccine – of which the UK has ordered 17 million doses – would start to arrive before Easter.

So far, the falls in COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions (about a fifth in a week respectively) are pretty much exclusively down to the effects of lockdown restrictions.

But soon, we’ll start to see the impact of vaccination too – and we will expect to see more good news, particularly falls in deaths which are heavily concentrated in the over-80s.

While deaths mainly occur in the over-80s, about 20% of hospital admissions are in 45-64-year-olds and another 20% in 65 to 74-year-olds. The latest commitment to vaccinate all over 50s could have a massive impact on severe illness and the strain it puts on the health service, too.

But the situation will remain precarious for a while. Cases, though falling, are still high – and despite a so-far successful vaccination campaign, large swathes of the country may still be unprotected come spring.

Though much rarer, a proportion of younger, healthy people will end up in hospital with COVID-19, and we’re only just beginning to learn about the burden of long COVID-19 on the previously well young.

So once the groups at highest risk of ending up in hospital and dying have been vaccinated, the government will face difficult questions about what level of risk it is willing to stomach to ease restrictions, while a prolonged lockdown carries its own risks that might be currently difficult to measure.

The UK’s drugs regulator, the MHRA, said the vaccines being distributed in the country were extremely safe, while new research shows the AstraZeneca jab protects well against the new “Kent” variant of Coronavirus.

Earlier on Friday, the government also announced a deal with biopharmaceutical company CureVac, which Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said would allow the UK to “swiftly tweak and roll out” existing vaccines to combat new variants, with 50 million doses placed in an initial order for later this year.

The government also said no contracts had yet been awarded to hotels to take part in England’s new quarantine scheme, which will see all those arriving from 33 COVID hotspots have to stay in a hotel for 10 nights.

 

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 08 February 2021

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