News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 27 January 2021

Media Summary

COVID-19: AstraZeneca boss says EU vaccine supply ‘glitches’ are because it signed deal 3 months after UK
Sky News, Editorial Team, 27 January

AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive has said the UK’s target of vaccinating the top four priority groups against COVID-19 by mid-February will be possible, Sky News reports.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Pascal Soriot said: “By March, the UK will have vaccinated maybe 28 to 30 million people. The Prime Minister has a goal to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February, and they’re already at 6.5 million. So, they will get there,” he said.

Admitting  there had been “teething problems” in various regions, Mr Soriot said that “glitches” in the supply of Coronavirus vaccines to Europe are due to it signing its contract three months after the UK.” He told the newspaper: “The UK contract was signed three months before the European vaccine deal, so with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced. As for Europe, we are three months behind in fixing those glitches.”

This story was also reported in BBC News.

 

UK access to Pfizer jab threatened as EU imposes new controls on COVID vaccine exports
Sky News, Ian Collier & Sharon Marris, 26 January

Sky News reports that the European Union has suggested it may impose strict controls on the exporting of Coronavirus vaccines made in the bloc. The move could impact the UK’s supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is made in Belgium.

European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that the EU “will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights”, adding that an “export transparency mechanism” will be installed “as soon as possible”.

“In the future, all companies producing vaccines against COVID-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries,” she said.

The UK government said it remained confident that supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is largely made in Oxfordshire and Staffordshire, would allow it to meet its target of vaccinating the most vulnerable by the middle of February.

 

COVID-19: North West vaccines to be cut by a third in February
BBC News, Editorial Team, 26 January

BBC News reports that COVID-19 vaccine supplies in the North West of England will be cut by a third in February. An NHS spokeswoman said the weekly supply will be reduced from 310,000 to 200,000 by the second week of the month for Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire, Merseyside and South Cumbria.

NHS England’s North West directorate said in a statement that the region was being “fully supplied with all the vaccinations needed to offer vaccination to everyone across the region aged 70 and above, as well as clinically extremely vulnerable patients, and health and social care staff.”

The Department of Health has said targeted deliveries were being made to areas with more people left to vaccinate in the priority categories, proportionate to their at-risk population.

A spokesman added that the department was “in close contact with all of our vaccine suppliers and remain on track to offer first vaccinations to the top four priority groups by mid-February”.

 

Target date for care home vaccinations missed
Health Service Journal, Jasmine Rapson, 26 January

Health Service Journal reports that the NHS has missed its first deadline for giving an initial dose of the vaccine to all older people’s care home residents and staff, and is now working to do so by the end of the month.

An NHS England letter on 13 January said it was “expecting all [primary care] local vaccination services to administer the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to care home residents and staff by Sunday 24th January.”

It is understood the 24 January target has not been met, and NHSE and the government has now said it is 31 January.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons, Written Answers, 26 January

  • Julian Sturdy (Conservative, York Outer): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans his Department has to utilise community pharmacies in the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Dr Julian Lewis (Conservative, New Forest East): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, for what reason pharmacies have not been used to administer COVID-19 vaccinations; and if he will make it his policy to utilise the pharmacy network for that purpose.

Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative, Statford-on-Avon): As from 26 January 2021, 65 community pharmacies have started to offer the COVID-19 vaccination service, with more pharmacies joining the service over the coming weeks.

Some pharmacists and members of their team have also been working with general practitioners (GPs) to deliver the vaccine in many areas of the country.

NHS England and NHS Improvement are working with all the national pharmacy organisations on plans to ensure that community pharmacies are used to optimal effect in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, starting with the sites that can do this at scale.

There is now a list of vaccine sites on the NHS website regularly updated as they come on stream, so you can check what services are available in your constituency including pharmacy sites. This is available here.

 

Committees hear from Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England
Health and Social Care Committee & Science and Technology Committee, 26 January

Yesterday the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee heard from Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, as part of their joint inquiry on ‘Coronavirus: Lessons Learnt.’

Sir Simon Stevens noted that he had been reassured by ministers that it is unlikely that the EU would block the exports of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in the EU. He also took this opportunity to stress the need for the UK to improve its vaccine manufacturing capacity in the future.

A transcript for the inquiry will be included here once it is made available.

 

Correspondence from Madeleine Alessandri, Permanent Secretary, Northern Ireland Office
Public Accounts Committee, 26 January

The Public Accounts Committee has published a letter sent by Madeleine Alessandri, Permanent Secretary for the Northern Ireland Office, to Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts.

The letter notes that the the UK Government commitment to a New Deal for Northern Ireland was made in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement of January 2020 and reiterated in the Northern Ireland Command Paper in May 2020. The funding announced will help mitigate the impacts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, boost economic growth, increase Northern Ireland’s competitiveness and invest in infrastructure. The letter notes that the funding will, amongst other aims, contribute to the following:

  • Support initiatives to promote Northern Ireland’s goods and services to markets in GB, Ireland and the rest of the world;
  • Help ensure resilience in medicine supply chains; and
  • Improve the flow of goods to and from Great Britain and across Northern Ireland, boosting access to opportunities.

You can read the letter in full here.

 

Full Coverage

COVID-19: AstraZeneca boss says EU vaccine supply ‘glitches’ are because it signed deal 3 months after UK
Sky News, Editorial Team, 27 January

AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive has said the UK’s target of vaccinating the top four priority groups against COVID-19 by mid-February will be possible.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Pascal Soriot said: “By March, the UK will have vaccinated maybe 28 to 30 million people.

“The Prime Minister has a goal to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February, and they’re already at 6.5 million. So they will get there.”

Mr Soriot hit back at the EU by saying that “glitches” in the supply of coronavirus vaccines to the bloc are due to it signing its contract three months after the UK.

He admitted there had been “teething problems” in various regions, including Europe and the UK.

He told the newspaper: “But the UK contract was signed three months before the European vaccine deal, so with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced.

“As for Europe, we are three months behind in fixing those glitches.”

His words come amid growing European anger towards the pharmaceutical company, which is accused of failing to deliver the promised number of doses of the vaccine it developed with Oxford University.

The EU has said all companies producing COVID vaccines in the EU would have to provide “early notification” when exporting to third countries.

This move could in turn affect the UK’s supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is made in Belgium, but both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said they were confident supply would not be interrupted.

Mr Soriot said his company’s global capacity is about 100 million vaccine doses a month, adding that most vaccines have a capacity of 100 million doses a year.

“Of course, we are ramping up production and Europe is getting 17% of this global production in February for a population that is 5% of the world population…We are in the ramp-up phase and basically it will improve, but it takes time.”

Mr Soriot also blamed “really bad luck”, adding: “Actually, there’s nothing mysterious about it.

“But look, the sites that have the lowest productivity in the network are the sites that are supplying Europe and quite honestly, I mean, we’re not doing it on purpose.

“I’m European, I have Europe at heart… Many people in the management are European. So we want to treat Europe as best we can.

“You know, we do this at no profit, remember? We didn’t go into this to try and make money or whatever. We would like to treat Europe as good as possible. I actually do believe we treated Europe fairly.”

AstraZeneca said last week it would cut supplies to the EU in the first quarter of 2021, citing production problems.

A senior EU official said at the time this meant a 60% reduction to 31 million doses.

In August last year, the bloc agreed to purchase 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for €750m, with an option for an additional 100 million.

Britain secured 100 million doses in May 2020, costing £84m.

In a separate interview with Die Welt, Mr Soriot said the volumes agreed with the EU were not binding.

“It’s not a commitment we have to Europe, it’s a best effort,” he said.

“The reason why we said that is because Europe wanted to be supplied more or less at the same time as the UK, even though the contract was signed three months later.”

Mr Soriot added that AstraZeneca is working with Oxford University on a vaccine that will target the South African variant of COVID-19.

He told the newspaper: “Having said that, we’re also working on a vaccine with Oxford University that will target the variant.”

 

UK access to Pfizer jab threatened as EU imposes new controls on COVID vaccine exports
Sky News, Ian Collier & Sharon Marris, 26 January

The European Union has threatened to impose strict controls on the exporting of coronavirus vaccines made in the bloc.

The move could impact the UK’s supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is made in Belgium.

It comes amid growing European anger towards pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which is accused of failing to deliver the promised number of doses of the vaccine it developed with Oxford University.

European health commissioner Stella Kyriakides warned that the EU “will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights”, adding that an “export transparency mechanism” will be installed “as soon as possible”.

“In the future, all companies producing vaccines against COVID-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries,” she said.

The UK government said it remained confident that supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is largely made in Oxfordshire and Staffordshire, would allow it to meet its target of vaccinating the most vulnerable by the middle of February.

A government spokeswoman said: “We remain in close contact with all of our vaccine suppliers. Our vaccine supply and scheduled deliveries will fully support offering the first dose to all four priority groups by 15 February.”

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi echoed this, telling Sky News he was “confident” supplies of the Pfizer vaccine would continue.

“Pfizer have made sure that they have always delivered for us, they will continue to do so,” he said.

“They have made a very important announcement on the equitable supply of the whole world, including the European Union, and I’m sure they will deliver for the European Union, the United Kingdom and for the rest of the world.

“We have got 367 million vaccines that we have ordered from seven different suppliers, so I’m confident we will meet our target and continue to vaccinate the whole of the adult population by the autumn.”

Earlier on Monday, Ms Kyriakides had criticised AstraZeneca’s decision to slow supplies of its vaccine as “unacceptable”.

The pharmaceutical company, announced on Friday it could not meet agreed supply targets and, according to reports, that meant a cut of 60% to 31 million doses – just weeks after Pfizer also announced supply delays.

AstraZeneca is believed to have received an upfront payment of £298m when the 27-nation bloc sealed a supply deal with the company in August for at least 300 million doses.

Under advance purchase deals sealed during the pandemic, the EU makes down-payments to companies to secure doses, with the money expected to be mostly used to expand production capacity.

The vaccine is expected to be approved for use in the EU on 29 January, with first deliveries expected from 15 February.

An AstraZeneca spokesman said the company was doing everything it could to bring its COVID-19 vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed the company, which has its headquarters in the UK, faces wider supply problems, with Australia and Thailand affected.

The UK is particularly reliant on the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab and it has been key to the country’s vaccine rollout so far, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that supply is “tight.”

 

COVID-19: North West vaccines to be cut by a third in February
BBC News, Editorial Team, 26 January

COVID-19 vaccine supplies in the North West of England will be cut by a third in February, the NHS has confirmed.

An NHS spokeswoman said the weekly supply will be reduced from 310,000 to 200,000 by the second week of the month for Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire, Merseyside and South Cumbria.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) said the move was due to national shortages and to allow other areas to catch up.

The Department of Health said the vaccination programme was “on track”.

It was previously reported that the North East and Yorkshire would see vaccine supplies halved to address variations in regional vaccination rates.

NHS England’s North West directorate said in a statement that the region was being “fully supplied with all the vaccinations needed to offer vaccination to everyone across the region aged 70 and above, as well as clinically extremely vulnerable patients, and health and social care staff”.

The Department of Health told the HSJ targeted deliveries were being made to areas with more people left to vaccinate in the priority categories, proportionate to their at-risk population.

A spokesman added that the department was “in close contact with all of our vaccine suppliers and remain on track to offer first vaccinations to the top four priority groups by mid-February”.

The NHS spokeswoman said about 900,000 people have now been vaccinated in the North West.

 

Target date for care home vaccinations missed
Health Service Journal, Jasmine Rapson, 26 January

The NHS has missed its first deadline for giving an initial dose of vaccine to all older people’s care home residents and staff, and is now working to do so by the end of the month.

An NHS England letter on 13 January said it was “expecting all [primary care] local vaccination services to administer the first dose of the covid-19 vaccine to care home residents and staff… by the end of this week wherever possible and, at the latest, by the end of next week (Sunday 24th January)”.

The letter set an additional financial payment to primary care networks for care home vaccinations by 24 January, and a smaller payment for those completed by 31 January.

It is understood the 24 January target has not been met, and NHSE and the government has now said it is 31 January.

A spokesman told HSJ that 24 January had been an “expectation” and the final deadline had “always been the end of the month”.

The representative body for independent care homes, Care England, told HSJ there had been a “number of challenges” with the vaccine rollout which contributed to the delays.

These include confusion over whether GPs should vaccinate in care homes where there has been a COVID outbreak – at least two cases – and the 12-week delay between doses.

A spokesman said care home staff were told to attend hospital vaccination hubs for their first dose, and that coordinating this had contributed to delays. It is hoped staff will receive their second dose in the care homes to maximise uptake, according to Care England.

A spokesman said: “The vaccine rollout to care homes has been a massive feat and we pay tribute to adult social care workers and their colleagues in the NHS for enabling this.

“There are of course challenges, not least the time lag between doses. In addition we have heard that there is some confusion as to whether GPs can vaccinate care homes with an ‘outbreak’; guidance has been issued around this and we hope that it will no longer be a hold-up to the efficient rollout of the vaccine.

“Anything that can be done to make the vaccine more available to residents and staff at all homes, including those for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, is to be welcomed”.

The NHS England spokesman said: “Just a few weeks after the Oxford vaccine – which allows teams to more easily vaccinate in care homes – became available, the majority of care home residents have already received their jab.

“Vaccinating care home residents is a priority for local GP-led vaccinating teams, who are on track to meet the government’s goal of doing so by the end of this month.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 27 January 2021

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