News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 12 January 2021

Media Summary

Plans for ‘wider involvement’ of pharmacies in vaccinations

Pharmacy Magazine, Editorial Staff, 11 January

Pharmacy Magazine reports that plans are underway to look at how more pharmacies can be involved in the Covid-19 vaccination programme. Community pharmacy bodies have sat down with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England & Improvement and there was general agreement “on the benefits of using more community pharmacies in the national vaccination effort.”

Boris Johnson recently said around 200 pharmacies have been designated as vaccination sites and may begin operations from this week, but concerns have been raised in recent days that the wider pharmacy network is not being utilised.

PSNC chief Simon Dukes said: “While it is positive that some pharmacies have already been selected by NHSE&I as local vaccination sites, we want to see the sector playing a far bigger role than this so we are pleased to have a commitment from all sides to work together on a plan. The pharmacy organisations are already working up proposals for this.”

 

Exclusive: Ministers keeping UK vaccine supply secret to avoid ‘diversion’ to other nations

Health Service Journal, Alastair McLellan, 11 January

Health Service Journal reports that in an NHS webinar held on Sunday night, NHS England Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said the supply of COVID-19 vaccines would be “constrained” by the agreed delivery schedule and batch authorisation process during the five-week period the NHS has been given to inoculate the most vulnerable groups.

He stressed that it was vital for the NHS to preserve supplies by only giving one dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford vaccine, rather than the two originally recommended. Any appointments already made to deliver second doses should be cancelled, the webinar was told — a firm message to some practices and hospitals which have continued giving second doses despite guidance being issued last month to allow for 12 weeks between vaccine doses.

HSJ also understands senior government officials and NHS figures are worried being too transparent on vaccine supply would affect negotiations with manufacturers, who are facing significant pressure from other countries to supply their vaccination efforts.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

UK COVID-19 Vaccines Delivery Plan
Department of Health and Social Care, 11 January

The UK Government has published its COVID-19 vaccination plan, which sets out to deliver at least two million vaccinations a week. Tens of millions of people will be immunised by the spring at over 2,700 vaccination sites across the UK, the government has announced as part of comprehensive plans to rapidly scale up the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

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. By the end of January, everyone in England will be within 10 miles of a vaccination site or, for a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccine will be brought to them via mobile teams. There will also be capacity to deliver at least 2 million vaccinations in England per week by the end of January and all residents and staff in over 10,000 care homes across the country will be offered a vaccine by the end of the month.

The Department of Health and Social Care has published the latest statistics on the number of people in the UK who have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. NHS England will publish a more detailed breakdown every week, beginning Thursday. The number in the UK who received the first dose between 08 December and 10 January is 2,286,572.

PHE has responsibility for surveillance of the vaccination programme and has developed a surveillance strategy encompassing monitoring of vaccine coverage, symptomatic disease, asymptomatic infection, and seroprevalence. Working with the NHS and academic centres, these detailed plans will allow PHE to document whether the vaccine interrupts transmission, how the vaccine works in people with underlying conditions, how long protection lasts, and whether the changes in the circulating virus affect the protection received from the vaccine.

In response to the vaccine plan, NHS Providers said that the target to offer 2m vaccinations a week by the end of January was an ambitious target. They welcomed the roll out of additional hospital, local and vaccination sites this week.

The ABPI called for continued focus throughout the significant challenge, adding that companies were working “around the clock” to deliver these vaccines on schedule.

You can read the vaccines delivery plan here.

 

Covid-19: Planning For a Vaccine Part 1: Preparations for Potential Covid-19 Vaccines
Public Accounts Committee Hearing, 11 January

During a session of the Public Accounts Committee on “Covid-19: Planning for a Vaccine Part 1: Preparations for Potential Covid-19 Vaccines”, MPs heard from:

  • Sarah Munby, Permanent Secretary, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy;
  • Emily Lawson, Chief Commercial Officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement;
  • Sir Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary, Department of Health and Social Care;
  • Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England;
  • Michael Brodie, Chief Executive, Public Health England;
  • Nick Elliott, Former Director General and SRO, Vaccine Taskforce, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; and
  • Kate Bingham, Chair, Vaccine Taskforce, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

 

Security

On the security of the supply chain, Sir Simon Stevens said he had received reasonable assurances. He noted a trade-off between transparency versus the opportunity this presented to malign actors, and informed witnesses that this was being discussed with police and security services.

Dr Lawson said the entire supply chain had been looked at by the vaccine taskforce and the deployment programme. She added that some information about transportation had not been published for security reasons, and that checks were being carried out on those who volunteered to administer the vaccine.

Risk

When questioned about domestic manufacturing capacities, Ms Munby said manufacturing was mainly the responsibility of those supplying the vaccine and, in most cases, the companies were large and had secure processes.

The Committee heard that the biggest challenge remained around the Pfizer vaccine, with it needing to be kept at such a low temperature, while other vaccines did not present such logistical risks.

Wastage

Dr Lawson said 97.3% of vaccine deliveries had been on time and in full. Some adaptations had been made to communications chains to improve delivery and supply information, she noted.

Delivery

Ms Bingham said timing of supply contracts and deliveries had been set out with each supplier. While she assured that suppliers were getting their share of the vaccine, she outlined that the challenge was doing the scale-up.

Mr Elliott added that detailed supply schedules were in place up until the end of February and said he was confident that supply would not be constrained, claiming there would be enough to vaccinate 100% of the cohorts.

 

Delays to supply

On batch testing holding up supply, Ms Blake asked if this was the case and if more should be done to improve capacity at this stage. Responding, Ms Bingham said the MHRA assessed the clinical efficacy and safety, along with ensuring every dose delivered was consistent and approved. These batch test experiments could not be done until the final version of the vaccine had been received. Ms Bingham stated that there were certain things that could not be compressed.

Ms Hillier asked if there had been any effect on supply chain caused by Brexit, to which Ms Munby replied there had not yet been any, although there were multiple-layer contingency plans in place.

 

Devolved nations

Procurement for the devolved nations was mentioned, and the comittee asked if the figures could be provided on how many vaccines had been distributed and delivered.

In reply, Sir Wormald said he did not have those numbers available at the moment but added that he was happy to speak to his devolved colleagues to provide this. Adding to this, Ms Munby said the doses had been split by population across the devolved nations and Sir Stevens said the Scottish government had been publishing figures on how many vaccines had been administered.

A transcript for the hearing can be found here.

 

House of Commons, Written Question, 11 January

Alex Norris (Labour, Nottingham North): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the Government plans to adapt the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine programme to allow more local communities to receive the vaccine from their community pharmacy.

 

Full Coverage

Plans for ‘wider involvement’ of pharmacies in vaccinations

Pharmacy Magazine, Editorial Staff, 11 January

Plans are underway to look at how more pharmacies can be involved in the Covid-19 vaccination programme, the PSNC has said, adding that it hoped to share details “very soon”.

The negotiator said yesterday (Sunday January 10) that community pharmacy bodies have sat down with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England & Improvement and that there was general agreement “on the benefits of using more community pharmacies in the national vaccination effort”.

Boris Johnson has said around 200 pharmacies have been designated as vaccination sites and may begin operations from today, but concerns have been raised in recent days that the wider pharmacy network is not being utilised.

However, according to the PSNC work is now underway to determine what is feasible for the sector and how pharmacies “can best be used to complement the existing network of larger vaccination sites,” including timings and the number of pharmacies likely to be involved.

The Government’s new Covid-19 vaccination delivery plan, published today, contains a reference to “large and small community pharmacy sites” offering vaccination services at a local level, along with general practice and primary care networks. Pharmacy Network News has approached the Department of Health and Social Care for more information.

“Community pharmacies are integral parts of local communities and will be accessible and approachable places from which to deliver vaccination,” says the document.

PSNC chief Simon Dukes said: “Last week saw renewed interest in the role that community pharmacies can play in the COVID-19 vaccination programme following PSNC’s national media push, and we were pleased to hear Ministers as well as Boris Johnson confirming that there will be a role for the sector to play.

“While it is positive that some pharmacies have already been selected by NHSE&I as local vaccination sites, we want to see the sector playing a far bigger role than this so we are pleased to have a commitment from all sides to work together on a plan. The pharmacy organisations are already working up proposals for this.

“PSNC’s ambition is for many thousands of pharmacies to be used to deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is logistically more suited to community settings. We know that patients will value this; that community pharmacies can do this; and that this would make a significant contribution to the national vaccination efforts.

“We hope to be able to share plans for this with contractors very soon so that they can make the necessary preparations and be ready to get going as soon as there is enough vaccine supply to enable smaller community vaccination sites like pharmacies to be stood up.”

 

Exclusive: Ministers keeping UK vaccine supply secret to avoid ‘diversion’ to other nations

Health Service Journal, Alastair McLellan, 11 January

The UK must not shout ‘from the rooftops’ about the COVID-19 vaccine supplies it has secured as this could potentially lead to manufacturers diverting supplies away from the country, NHS England Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam told NHS leaders last night.

The comments were made on an “urgent webinar” organised at short notice on Sunday evening.

As well as Sir Simon and Professor Van-Tam, briefings were given by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, NHSE Medical Director Stephen Powis, Primary Care Director Nikki Kanani and Vaccination Programme lead Emily Lawson.

All clinical commissioning group chairs and accountable officers were invited to the webinar, along with senior NHSE regional directors.

The webinar also heard vaccination delivery needed to be accelerated in London, while the North East and Yorkshire region was performing the best.

Sir Simon said the supply of covid vaccines would be “constrained” by the agreed delivery schedule and batch authorisation process during the five-week period the NHS has been given to inoculate the most vulnerable groups, according to sources present.

This meant it was vital the NHS preserved supplies by only giving one dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford vaccine, rather than the two originally recommended. Any appointments already made to deliver second doses should be cancelled, the webinar was told — a firm message to some practices and hospitals which have continued giving second doses despite guidance being issued last month to allow for 12 weeks between vaccine doses.

However, Sir Simon also explained “politicians were keeping away from the rooftops on numbers” related to the supply of vaccines as this could potentially put pressure on pharmaceutical manufacturers and therefore, as a knock-on effect, mean they potentially decide to limit the UK’s supply even further.

Professor Van-Tam backed up Sir Simon’s assertion, warning “diversion” of vaccine supply by manufacturers was “always a risk”, HSJ understands.

HSJ also understands senior government and NHS figures are worried being too transparent on vaccine supply would affect negotiations with manufacturers, who are facing significant pressure from other countries to supply their vaccination efforts. They fear revealing the UK’s hand on vaccine supply would “put a target” on supply numbers which others would then ask for.

The latest information on the number of daily inoculations delivered across England will be published later today, with the first regional information due later this week.

Asked which region was doing the best in providing the covid vaccines, Sir Simon identified the North East and Yorkshire area. He added some other areas need “chivvying”, noting there needed to be an “acceleration across London in the next week”.

However, he also pointed out the programme was at a relatively early stage.

The NHS is opening its first seven vaccination centres, to vaccinate people aged 80 and health and care staff, today. The “mass” sites are mostly run by NHS trusts, separately from the hundreds of sites coordinated by primary care.

The seven sites are:

  • Excel Centre in London (London);
  • Ashton Gate in Bristol (South West);
  • Epsom racecourse in Surrey (South East);
  • Millennium Point in Birmingham (Midlands);
  • Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England);
  • Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester (North West); and
  • The Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne (North East and Yorkshire).

NHSE also announced this morning: “Hundreds more GP-led and hospital services are also due to open this week along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total to around 1,200.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 12 January 2021

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