News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 19 January 2021

Media Summary

Supply and reluctance: What’s delaying a pharmacy COVID vax service?
Chemist + Druggist, Valeria Fiore, 18 January

Chemist + Druggist reports that as more than 200 pharmacies are expected to start vaccinating by the end of January, questions remain as to why less than 1% of the sector has been commissioned to do so thus far.

Speaking at the Downing Street Coronavirus briefing last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that pharmacies will play a bigger role in the government’s vaccination campaign, as jabs which are easier to roll-out become more readily available.

On supply, HDA Executive Director Martin Sawer told Chemist + Druggist that wholesalers “are not experiencing problems in the supply chain.”

“What will be the rate-limiting factor is the manufacturing of enough vaccines in a timely way to satisfy the demand of the vaccination centres,” he said.

HDA members “are distributing all the stock they get almost as soon as they get it”, he added. “The supply chain is flexible and has the capacity to do more and deliver more; I don’t think we’ve always got, necessarily, as much as we could deal with. We could cope with more supplies if they were there,” Mr Sawer said.

 

UK vaccination rollout a rare pandemic success
Financial Times, Chris Giles, Clive Cookson, Sarah Neville & Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe, 18 January

The Financial Times reports that the UK has pulled ahead of other large, advanced economies in the race to vaccinate against Coronavirus, and had inoculated almost 6 per cent of its population by the end of last week.

After experiencing difficulty in controlling the spread of the virus, testing and tracing positive cases, preventing deaths and protecting the economy, Britain’s stronger effort in vaccinating its citizens is allowing ministers to dream that an end to Britain’s COVID-19 crisis might be in sight.

They attribute this success to a combination of strong planning, a willingness to spend, and the centralised structure of the NHS. Having spent over £280bn, more than 14 per cent of national income, on all aspects of fighting the virus, the government has devoted £11.7bn to the purchase, manufacture and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, and to support vaccine research, according to the UK’s National Audit Office.

 

Wales’ Covid vaccine rollout criticised as first minister defends delay
The Guardian, Steven Morris, 18 January

The Guardian reports that the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Wales has been heavily criticised after the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said the deployment of tens of thousands of Pfizer/BioNTech jabs was being staggered to avoid staff sitting around with nothing to do once the country gets through its current supply.

Doctors’ representatives, opposition politicians and citizens waiting for their vaccine expressed deep concern and called for the Welsh government to speed up its distribution.

Wales has so far has been provided with about 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, around 250,000 of them the Pfizer version and 50,000 the Oxford jab. By Monday it had vaccinated just over 150,000 people.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Health workforce ‘together as one’ to vaccinate Wales safely as pharmacy pilot begins
Welsh Government Press Release, 15 January

Welsh healthcare workers are coming “together as one” to ensure Wales’ COVID-19 vaccination programme rolls out as quickly as is safe to do, the Health Minister has said. It comes as the first pharmacies in Wales begin to administer COVID-19 vaccines, with a pilot starting in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board last Friday.

Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:

“We are in the early stages of delivering the largest vaccination programme Wales has ever seen and the sheer scale of what has been achieved so far, and continues to happen, should not be underestimated.

“The roll-out of these vaccines to every eligible adult in Wales as quickly as is safe to do so is truly an example, once again, of our inspiring healthcare workforce coming together as one.”

You can read the full press release here.

 

Full Coverage

Supply and reluctance: What’s delaying a pharmacy COVID vax service?
Chemist + Druggist, Valeria Fiore, 18 January

More than 200 pharmacies are expected to start vaccinating by the end of January, but questions remain as to why less than 1% of the sector has been commissioned to do so thus far.

Speaking at the Downing Street Coronavirus briefing last week (January 11), Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that pharmacies will play a bigger role in the government’s vaccination campaign when the need comes to “persuade people…who are less certain that they want the vaccine to get the vaccine” and simplify access to it for those who “find it difficult to travel.”

Several pharmacy bodies have urged the government to commission community pharmacies more widely to deliver the COVID-19 vaccination programme, and yet just 200 – less than 1% of the circa 11,500 pharmacies in England – are expected to go live by the end of January.

So, what are the reasons for NHSE&I’s slowness to commission the whole sector to step up its vaccination efforts?

Vaccines in limited supply?

An NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) spokesperson told C+D last week that, while six pharmacy sites have begun offering the vaccinations, more will follow soon – which is the same process the commissioner followed with hospital hubs, GPs and large-scale sites, they stressed.

However, welcoming the six pharmacies vaccinating eligible patients in their localities last week, NHSE&I Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Dr Bruce Warner said that “more [pharmacies] will come on stream as supplies allow” – suggesting that a limited supply of vaccines could currently be preventing a greater number of pharmacies from delivering the COVID-19 jabs within their communities.

Speaking to Sky News today (January 18), Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi laid out plans for a 24-hour COVID-19 vaccination pilot, which will initially involve hospitals in London – a service that the Labour party said community pharmacies should lead on.

But Mr Zahawi added that “at the moment, the challenge is obviously supply, limited supply of vaccine that needs to get into the arms of the most vulnerable four cohorts […] so we can protect them by mid-February”.

NHSE&I CEO Simon Stevens also told the BBC that 140 people a minute are being given the COVID-19 jab and that, at the moment, the NHS is “vaccinating four times faster than people are newly catching coronavirus”.

The NHS could go faster and vaccinate even more adults as soon as it has “more vaccines supply”, he added.

C+D has asked NHSE&I whether a lack of consistent supply is the reason why it has not commissioned a national pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination service so far.

More than 3.8 million people were administered their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said in a statement today, as the NHS begins the rollout of the vaccines to those aged over 70 and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

Supply chain issues?

A DH spokesperson told C+D that “vaccines are being distributed fairly across the UK to ensure the most vulnerable are immunised first and all GPs will continue to receive deliveries as planned”.

However, a few GPs reported last week that they had not received their orders of COVID-19 vaccines – an issue that NHSE&I medical director for primary care Nikita Kanani said was due to a “temperature excursion at one of our specialist pharma logistic providers”, according to a message to vaccinators, seen by C+D.

An NHSE&I spokesperson told C+D last week (January 15) that “a small number of vaccines” were affected and that it had informed “all sites of the delay and should receive it [that day] or overnight”.

Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) executive director Martin Sawer told C+D that wholesalers “are not experiencing problems in the supply chain”.

“What will be the rate-limiting factor is the manufacturing of enough vaccines in a timely way to satisfy the demand of the vaccination centres,” he said.

HDA members “are distributing all the stock they get almost as soon as they get it”, he added.

“The supply chain is flexible and has the capacity to do more and deliver more; I don’t think we’ve always got, necessarily, as much as we could deal with. We could cope with more supplies if they were there,” Mr Sawer said.

C+D has asked both AstraZeneca and Pfizer for comment.

Reluctance over vaccine requirements

Earlier this month, C+D launched a petition – which, at time of writing, has amassed almost 4,000 signatures – urging NHSE&I to allow more community pharmacies to vaccinate by forfeiting the requirement for them to deliver 1,000 vaccinations per week.

An NHSE&I spokesperson told C+D today (January 18) that all local vaccination sites, including community pharmacies, must be able to deliver all approved vaccines, including Moderna’s when it is introduced to the supply chain later this year.

An anonymous pharmacy owner told C+D earlier this month (January 5) that contractors were reluctant to put themselves forward to take part in the vaccination programme because of the need to be able to deliver either vaccine – Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca.

The requirement of being able to offer the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine – which is logistically more difficult for the sector to deliver – coupled with NHSE&I’s ask for pharmacies to administer 1,000 vaccines a week, could prevent many more from joining the national vaccination efforts in the future.

 

UK vaccination rollout a rare pandemic success
Financial Times, Chris Giles, Clive Cookson, Sarah Neville & Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe, 18 January

This article is subject to copyright terms and conditions. Please access the full article here.

 

Wales’ Covid vaccine rollout criticised as first minister defends delay
The Guardian, Steven Morris, 18 January

The COVID-19 vaccination programme in Wales has been heavily criticised after the first minister, Mark Drakeford, said the deployment of tens of thousands of Pfizer/BioNTech jabs was being staggered to avoid staff sitting around with nothing to do once the country gets through its current supply.

Doctors’ representatives, opposition politicians and citizens waiting for their vaccine expressed deep concern and called for the Labour-led government to speed up its distribution.

Wales has so far has been provided with about 300,000 Covid vaccinations, around 250,000 of them the Pfizer version and 50,000 the Oxford jab. By Monday it had vaccinated just over 150,000 people.

The Oxford vaccine is being used as soon as it arrives in the country from centralised UK supplies and has already got through 95% of its current ration.

But speaking on the BBC on Monday morning, Drakeford said that as Wales was not due to get any more Pfizer vaccines until the end of this month or the start of next, it was staggering its rollout.

He said: “We have to use that over that six-week stretch. There would be no point, I think, and it would be logistically very damaging to try to use all of that in the first week and then have all of our vaccinators standing around with nothing to do for another month.

“The sensible thing to do is use the vaccine you have got over the period that you have got it for so your system can absorb it. You don’t have people standing about with nothing to do.”

Following an outcry, a Welsh government spokesperson insisted that it was on course to vaccinate all members of the top four priority groups by mid-February.

The spokesperson did not repeat Drakeford’s reasoning but said it was organising the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine in such a way as to avoid wastage.

“The Pfizer vaccine comes in large packs, which cannot be split and must be stored at ultra-low temperatures – at -70c. There are only two centres in Wales where we can keep them at this temperature. Once removed from storage, the vaccine lasts five-days. Every dose wasted is a vaccine which cannot be given to someone in Wales. Health boards are receiving all the doses of Pfizer they can use.”

Speaking at the Welsh government’s press conference on Monday lunchtime, the education minister, Kirsty Williams, said: “We are not holding back on any supplies. We are distributing Pfizer in a careful way to ensure there is infrastructure in place to deliver it safely and most efficiently, avoiding waste.”

The supply in Wales suffered a blow after a batch of 26,000 Oxford vaccines failed testing. Wales is due to receive those vaccines next week, and the Welsh government said the hitch would not affect its February target.

But the Welsh Conservatives said the system was “not fit for purpose”.

Andrew RT Davies, the shadow minister for health, said: “The Welsh Labour government is failing to deliver its vaccine programme. His [Drakeford’s] shocking … decision to delay deployment of Pfizer vaccine supplies is dangerous and makes no clinical sense whatsoever. We need to get these vaccinations into people’s arms ASAP. Lives and livelihoods across Wales are at stake.”

Davies added: “People, especially in the vulnerable groups or those over 80, will today be wondering just what to believe from the Welsh government, just what it’s doing, and just when they will receive their vaccinations.

“This contradictory and confusing messaging from ministers will allay no-one’s concerns and will likely add to their anxiety.”

About 5% of the population has been vaccinated in Wales, compared with 6% in England.

The Plaid Cymru health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth, asked: “Why are we rationing here? To see the first minister being relaxed about the slow pace of the vaccine rollout here is very, very frustrating.”

The British Medical Association in Wales expressed concern about the tactic of staggering vaccines.

It tweeted: “Extremely concerned the Welsh government is spacing out the Pfizer vaccine to make it last until the next delivery. If Pfizer vaccines are available, second does must be given within the maximum 42-day timeline and all remaining vaccinations for staff must be accelerated.”

Michael Jenkins, whose 90-year-old father, Harry, has not received a date for his first jab, called on the government to speed up the pace of the programme. He said his father, a retired surveyor from Swansea, had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but was still waiting for his appointment.

“People like my father are being put at risk unnecessarily,” he said. “He and pensioners like him need the jab as soon as then can. I think the Welsh government is dragging its heels. I’m not criticising our doctors and nurses. They’re doing a fantastic job. But there is a blockage in the system that needs to be sorted out.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 19 January 2021

From Factory to Pharmacy

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