News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 16 June 2021

Media Summary

Pfizer supply shortage forces Covid vaccine rollout to slow down
The Telegraph, Bill Gardner and Laura Donnelly, 15 June 2021

The Telegraph reports that supply shortages of the Pfizer vaccine have caused the NHS to slow the vaccine rollout.

Boris Johnson said that delaying the final stage of the UK’s reopening roadmap would give the NHS crucial weeks to accelerate the vaccination programme.

To do this, ministers have brought forward the target to offer all adults a first dose and said over-40s should receive their second more quickly. However, analysis reveals that the rate at which jabs are dispensed is slowing and is set to keep falling further.

Sir Simon Stevens, the NHS Chief said that the rollout cannot go faster than supplies allow.

Supplies are so short that staff at some mass vaccination centres have been told their shifts will be cancelled in the coming weeks.

Nahim Zahawi, the Vaccines Minister, has admitted that Pfizer supplies will be “tight” over the next few weeks.

COVID-19: All over-18s in England able to book jab ‘by end of week’ – as new COVID treatment on the way
Sky News, 15 June 2021

Sky News reports that Downing Street has confirmed that all over-18s in England will be offered a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of this week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters that all adults would be able to get a jab “from the end of this week” following an announcement by the Chief Executive of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens, who said a new treatment for infected people is also set to be available soon.

Sir Simon said: “It is now very important that we use the next four weeks to finish the job to the greatest extent possible for the COVID vaccination programme…”

“By 19 July we aim to have offered perhaps two-thirds of adults across the country double jabs.”

Over-18s in Wales and Northern Ireland can already get a jab, and people over 30 are eligible in Scotland. Giving the jab to younger adults is important in controlling the recent increase in cases as most new infections are among this group.

 

 Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

Pfizer supply shortage forces Covid vaccine rollout to slow down
The Telegraph, Bill Gardner and Laura Donnelly, 15 June 2021

Shortages of the Pfizer vaccine have forced the NHS to slow the rollout of jabs despite ministers promising to use the delay to the ending of Covid restrictions to vaccinate as many people as possible.

Supplies of the Pfizer jab to virus hotspots in which Covid case rates are rising among younger groups have been cut, The Telegraph has learned.

Boris Johnson said on Monday that delaying the reopening would give the NHS crucial weeks in which to accelerate the vaccination programme.

Ministers have brought forward the target to offer all adults a first dose, and said over-40s should receive their second more quickly.

But analysis reveals that the rate at which jabs are dispensed is slowing and is set to keep falling further.

Overall, just 1.2 million first doses were dispensed in the last week, compared with more than three million a week in earlier stages of the programme, with the UK now lagging behind Germany, Italy and France.

On Tuesday, the head of the NHS said the service was unable to go any faster amid limited supplies of Pfizer, the main vaccine offered to anyone under 40.

Supplies are so short that staff at some mass vaccination centres have been told their shifts will be cancelled in the coming weeks, according to a leaked letter seen by The Telegraph.

Meanwhile in Salford, Greater Manchester, where the case rate is among the highest in the country, health bosses have been told to expect Pfizer supplies to drop from 3,500 doses this week to only 2,200 doses next week.

Hotspot areas warned that the July 19 unlocking could be derailed unless they received more supplies.

In London, health officials requested 367,000 extra Pfizer and Moderna doses, with Sadiq Khan, the capital’s mayor, claiming the boost would allow people to “return to doing more of the things we love”.

Ian Ward, the leader of Birmingham City Council, warned that the city would be “in exactly the same position” by July 19 unless the Pfizer shortage could be tackled.

“Unless the Government can deliver the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in the right numbers, it’s hard to see how we could safely unlock on July 19 – and that goes for the whole country,” he told The Telegraph.

If the rollout had kept going at the rates achieved in March, all first doses could have been administered by June 1, analysis by The Telegraph suggests, with all second jabs by the end of August or earlier if the gap between doses had been speeded up.

Instead, the rollout is working to administer all first doses by July 19 and second doses could take until Oct 11.

Nahim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, has admitted that Pfizer supplies will be “tight” over the next few weeks.

“Pfizer have done a great job in being consistent on their delivery schedule,” he said, adding that the company had done “remarkable things to increase their production, not just for us but for the whole world, for Europe and the US as well. But it is tight”.

It was the only rabbit the Prime Minister was able to brandish from a very tattered hat.

Amid the bad news – the country will remain stuck in restrictions for another four weeks – the rollout of vaccinations would be accelerated, Mr Johnson said.

Jabs are the biggest weapon in the virus war and, with this in mind, all over-40s will be offered second vaccines sooner, with the target for first doses brought forward.

In fact, the changes to the rollout have merely prevented it from shuddering to a near-halt.

While Britain is on track to give second doses to all over-50s by next week – and has now given both jabs to 30 million adults – without changes to the schedule it would have fallen into a lull for two weeks before over-40s became eligible, according to analysis by The Telegraph.

Meanwhile, a closer look at the Prime Minister’s headline pledge reveals the scale of its ambition. According to the government data, speeding up second doses will only require vaccinations to run at half the current pace.

While two million people got second jabs in the last week, just six million in their 40s and 50s are due second jabs in the next five weeks in order for the Government to hit its target.

In truth, senior health sources said, the speeding up of second doses was not a major challenge because most were AstraZeneca, of which supplies are plentiful.

But the programme of first doses is moving far more slowly in younger groups. Thanks to decisions by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to largely restrict AstraZeneca to older people, the rollout is now almost entirely dependent on Pfizer and is only managing to give around 1.2 million doses a week compared with three million a week in March.

On Tuesday, Sir Simon Stevens, the NHS chief, told a conference of the NHS Confederation that the rollout can go no faster than supplies allow. The programme has opened to those aged 23 and over and is expected to open bookings to all over-18s later this week, but some have been forced to wait several weeks to secure a slot.

Last week, NHS England announced that a “drive to the finishing line” over the coming four weeks would see £20 million in extra funding handed to GPs and local vaccination centres to increase staffing.

But staff at mass vaccination centres have instead been warned to expect their shifts to be cancelled due to shortages of the Pfizer vaccine. In a letter seen by The Telegraph, NHS bosses at Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust told staff and volunteers at the Derby Arena centre that they may not be required to come into work.

“As Derbyshire will not be receiving large quantities of the Pfizer vaccine, which we need for the younger cohorts, it means activity at the vaccination centre will be reduced for a few weeks,” the letter said.

“This inevitably means some shifts will be cancelled, and I’m very sorry for the inconvenience this may cause. I’m hoping this at least gives you a chance to take a well earned break and recharge your batteries ready for when we have a better supply. We are being advised there will be more vaccine in July to carry on with our younger adults.”

MPs are understood to have challenged the health minister Edward Argar over Pfizer supply shortages during an all-party Zoom call on Tuesday morning.

In Birmingham, GPs were said to have “no Pfizer in the fridge”, with only enough supplies to vaccinate 10 per cent of the city’s 18 to 29-year-olds against the spreading Indian or delta variant.

Ian Ward, the leader of Birmingham City Council, said the Government may have to abandon plans to fully ease restrictions on July 19 unless the Pfizer shortage is addressed swiftly.

“In four weeks’ time we will be in the same position unless we have vaccinated enough of those people below the age of 30, given the pressures on hospitals,” Mr Ward told the Telegraph.

“In Birmingham, we’ve got 37 per cent of people unvaccinated in some areas because of our younger population. Unless the Government can deliver the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in the right numbers, it’s hard to see how we could safely unlock on July 19 – and that goes for the whole country.

“We have told Matt Hancock that we need whatever increased supply they can get their hands on. We could be doing 100,000 jabs a week if we had enough vaccine. The Government say they plan to ‘lean in’ to the problem, but I have no idea what that actually means.”

Liam Byrne, the Hodge Hill MP, said GPs in his constituency had warned that “there is no Pfizer left in their fridges”.

“There is no certainty about when it is going to arrive, and they do not know how much they will get when it does come. We cannot unlock until we unblock this pipeline,” he said.

Health leaders in Salford have been told to expect Pfizer supplies to drop next week, despite the area experiencing among the highest Covid case rates in the country, with 311.4 infections per 100,000 people.

“They’ve told us to expect 3,500 doses of Pfizer this week, and then only 2,200 doses next week,” said Barbara Keeley, the Worsley and Eccles South MP.

“When the virus was peaking in Bolton, they were vaccinating 4,000 people every day. But we simply aren’t getting the supplies. The whole point of the month delay was meant to be to get more jabs in arms – and that won’t happen at this rate.”

The challenge has been further complicated by family doctors increasingly giving up their vaccination responsibilities in order to restore normal service to patients.

“They feel they need to go back to concentrating on business as usual and then come back in the autumn when there will be a need to give booster shots,” said Prof Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “There are no shortages of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines and deliveries are coming in on time and as ordered.

“Our vaccination programme continues to make phenomenal progress, with more than 71 million vaccines administered so far –including 30 million second doses – and we are on track to offer a jab to all adults by July 19. We have been clear that everyone who is due a second dose should receive it on schedule.”

COVID-19: All over-18s in England able to book jab ‘by end of week’ – as new COVID treatment on the way
Sky News, 15 June 2021

All over-18s in England will be offered a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of this week, Downing Street has confirmed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters all adults would be able to get a jab “from the end of this week” following an announcement by the chief executive of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens, who said a new treatment for infected people is also set to be available soon.

Live COVID updates from the UK and around the world

Sir Simon said the health service hoped to “finish the job” of vaccinating people over the next month.

He told the NHS Confederation conference: “It is now very important that we use the next four weeks to finish the job to the greatest extent possible for the COVID vaccination programme…

“By 19 July we aim to have offered perhaps two-thirds of adults across the country double jabs.”

He also said that from today 23 and 24-year-olds would be able to book an appointment.

“I expect that by the end of this week, we’ll be able to open up the National Booking Service to all adults age 18 and above.”

Over-18s in Wales and Northern Ireland can already get a jab, and people over 30 are eligible in Scotland.

Giving the jab to younger adults is important in controlling the recent increase in cases as most new infections are among this group.

Sir Simon also told the NHS conference that new treatments for people with COVID were expected in the coming months.

“We expect that we will begin to see further therapies that will actually treat coronavirus and prevent severe illness and death,” he said.

“Today I’m asking the health service to gear up for what is likely to be a new category of such treatments – so-called neutralising monoclonal antibodies – which are potentially going to become available to us within the next several months.”

The NHS England boss said community services would be needed to deliver the infusion to people before they are hospitalised, and typically within three days of infection.

The treatment aims to ‘neutralise’ the virus in infected patients and prevent serious disease.

Meanwhile, the government vaccine drive continues at pace towards the target of giving all adults a jab by the end of July. It’s hoped millions more can be administered before the new date for easing remaining COVID restrictions.

The government’s former chief scientific adviser, professor Sir Mark Walport, said on Tuesday that delaying the final step out of lockdown was wise and there could have been a big surge in cases if it had gone ahead.

He told Sky News that “another month will enable many more people to be jabbed and for the effects of those first and second jabs to actually kick in”.

So far, nearly 41.7 million people in the UK have had a first dose, while nearly 30 million have had both.

And while hospitalisations have risen slightly in recent weeks, Sir Simon said only 1% of beds in England were occupied by COVID patients.

He said the age distribution of patients had “flipped” due to older people mostly having had both jabs.

“Back in January, it was 60/40 – 60% of beds occupied by people over 65, 40% (occupied by people) under 65,” he said.

“Now it’s flipped to 30/70, so it’s about 30% occupied by people aged 65 and over 70% by younger people whose prospects are much greater.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 16 June 2021

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