News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 25 January 2021

Media Summary

COVID-19: Vaccine programme continues to expand with 32 new centres across England
Sky News, Editorial Team, 25 January

Sky News reports that more than 30 new vaccination centres are due to open in England this week as the drive continues to protect the population against COVID-19. It comes after government figures showed more than 6.3 million people in the UK have received the first dose of the two-dose vaccine.

A record-breaking 491,970 people were vaccinated in a single day over the weekend, suggesting the country is on course to meet the government’s target of vaccinating 15 million of the most vulnerable by mid-February.

Meanwhile, union leaders have called for transport workers to be classed as a priority group after a “surge” in deaths.

 

COVID-19: Demand at Northern Ireland’s vaccination centres declines
BBC News, Marie-Louise Connolly, 25 January

Demand at Northern Ireland’s regional vaccination centres has started to decline as health workers have received their first dose of a vaccine, the Department of Health has confirmed to BBC News NI.

The Department said: “Demand at the trust regional vaccination centres has started to decline as we are coming to the end of HSC workers receiving their first dose of a vaccine. So trusts are now working hard to invite their clinically extremely vulnerable patients into these regional centres to receive their vaccine.”

The Department of Health said that a further announcement on the timing of the start of vaccinations for those aged 70 and over, the wider clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) group, and those aged 65 and over will be confirmed later this week. More than 150,000 people in NI have already received a COVID-19 vaccine – 10.5% of the adult population.

 

COVID-19: AstraZeneca to ‘cut COVID-19 vaccine delivery to EU by 60%’
Sky News, Editorial Team, 23 January

Sky News reports that AstraZeneca will cut deliveries of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union by 60% in the first quarter of the year.

The company was expected to deliver around 80 million doses to the 27 EU countries by the end of March, an EU official said. However, it now expects that to be cut to 31 million doses due to “production problems” at a vaccine factory in Belgium run by its partner Novasep.

Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said on Twitter: “The EU Commission and Member States have expressed deep dissatisfaction with this development. The EU Commission will continue to insist with AstraZeneca on measures to increase predictability and stability of deliveries, and acceleration of the distribution of doses.”

Deliveries to the United Kingdom are not expected to be impacted.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

COVID-19: Vaccine programme continues to expand with 32 new centres across England
Sky News, Editorial Team, 25 January

More than 30 new vaccination centres are due to open in England this week as the drive continues to protect the population against COVID-19.

The 32 centres include the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, a racecourse, a football stadium and a former Ikea store.

It comes after government figures showed more than 6.3 million people in the UK have received the first dose of the two-dose vaccine to help protect them against the coronavirus.

A record-breaking 491,970 were vaccinated in a single day over the weekend, suggesting the country is on course to meet the government’s target of vaccinating 15 million of the most vulnerable by mid-February.

With the first four priority groups now being vaccinated, attention is turning to which groups will be offered the vaccine next.

Union leaders have called for transport workers to be classed as a priority group, after a “surge” in deaths.

Rail, Maritime and Transport Union General Secretary Mick Cash said: “A more infectious and now it seems more deadly variant of the COVID-19 virus plus an increase in passengers numbers is a lethal cocktail threatening rail workers, with deaths and illness doubling since November.”

A group of scientists have also said it might be necessary to vaccinate domestic animals to limit the spread of the virus.

Coronavirus can infect species including cats, dogs, experts from the University of East Anglia, Norwich based research facility the Earlham Institute, and University of Minnesota have said.

In an editorial for the journal Virulence, they wrote: “It is not unthinkable that vaccination of some domesticated animal species might… be necessary to curb the spread of the infection.”

Kevin Tyler, Editor-in-Chief of Virulence, said: “Cats are asymptomatic but they are infected by it and they can infect humans with it.

“The risk is that, as long as there are these reservoirs, that it starts to pass as it did in the mink from animal to animal, and then starts to evolve animal-specific strains, but then they spill back into the human population and you end up essentially with a new virus which is related which causes the whole thing all over again.”

The UK recorded a further 610 COVID-related deaths on Sunday, along with another 30,004 cases.

It brings the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK to 97,939.

Meanwhile, senior ministers will meet on Tuesday to discuss requiring travellers to pay for quarantine at a designated hotel on their return to the UK.

The proposal, which is aimed at getting more people to comply with isolation rules after their arrival, is said to have the support of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

It was prompted by concerns over new variants of the virus found in Brazil and South Africa.

Mr Hancock has said there were 77 known cases of the South African variant in the UK – all linked to travel – and nine of the Brazilian variant.

The variants have also sparked concern in the US, where president Joe Biden is expected to reinstate travel restrictions on non-US travellers from the UK, Ireland, Brazil and 26 other European countries.

 

COVID-19: Demand at Northern Ireland’s vaccination centres declines
BBC News, Marie-Louise Connolly, 25 January

Demand at NI’s regional vaccination centres has started to decline as health workers have received their first dose of a vaccine, the Department of Health has confirmed to BBC News NI.

Instead, health trusts are planning to invite clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) patients into these regional centres to receive their vaccine.

The department said CEV patients would be contacted in due course.

It also urged healthcare workers to take up the offer of a jab quickly.

However, in a letter seen by BBC News NI, the Southern Health Trust has told vaccinators that due to some services being stood down, the need for vaccinators at South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon “will be limited” over the next four to six weeks.

“This is because we have staff who require shifts delivering vaccines to make up their core working hours,” it said.

The letter from the Southern Trust acknowledged that some “will be disappointed not to be able to work as part of our vaccination team and also avail of the opportunity to work additional hours”.

It added that there will be times when vaccinators will be needed “at short notice”.

“We will be keeping a list of staff who have advised that they would be available to work at South Lake Leisure Centre and we will contact them in the first instance if a shift needs covered unexpectedly.”

In a statement, the Department of Health said: “We are advised that as some services are currently stood down – eg school nurses – this has allowed staff from these services to be redeployed to the vaccination team.

“This has allowed other staff to be released from vaccinator shifts back to their substantive posts, given the pressures on hospital services. That is what the letter was referring to – not about any diminution of the vaccination centre’s work.”

The speed at which the vaccines are being delivered has slowed somewhat over the past week, according to official government data, but Northern Ireland remains one of the vaccination success stories.

The Department of Health said the NI vaccination data for 23 and 24 January – as reported at UK-wide level – “is only partial information as it does not contain the GP vaccination figures”.

Updated figures are expected to be published on Monday.

“Demand at the trust regional vaccination centres has started to decline as we are coming to the end of HSC workers receiving their first dose of a vaccine,” said the department.

“So trusts are now working hard to invite their clinically extremely vulnerable patients into these regional centres to receive their vaccine.”

The Department of Health said that a further announcement on the timing of the start of vaccinations for those aged 70 and over, the wider clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) group and those aged 65 and over will be confirmed later this week.

More than 150,000 people in NI have already received a Covid vaccine – 10.5% of the adult population.

On Sunday, the Department of Health reported 14 more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the NI total to 1,730.

Another 433 people have tested positive for Covid-19.

There are 796 people in hospital in Northern Ireland with the virus, 74 of them are in intensive care and 54 are ventilated.

Over the weekend, the Nightingale Hospital – based in the tower block at Belfast City Hospital – has opened eight additional ICU beds, in response to the number of people needing care for Covid-19.

Some patients are being transferred from other hospitals, as are staff.

It was also reported that Northern Ireland is testing for the new Covid-19 variant but that capacity is limited.

It is thought that up to 50% of current Covid-19 cases could be related to the new variant ‘English’ variant, which is thought to be about 50-70% more infectious than the original strain.

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Ulster, Dr Connor Bamford, a virologist at Queen’s University said: “I think we need to be fairly concerned about this, for a couple of these variants they’re actually changing how the virus behaves.

“This one in particular seems to be more transmissible, which means more people getting infected, more people getting sick and more people dying.

“For some of the other variants they might actually be able to escape, ever so slightly, how our vaccine works.”

 

COVID-19: AstraZeneca to ‘cut COVID-19 vaccine delivery to EU by 60%’
Sky News, Editorial Team, 23 January

AstraZeneca will cut deliveries of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union by 60% in the first quarter of the year, according to Reuters news agency.

The company was expected to deliver around 80 million doses to the 27 EU countries by the end of March, an EU official told the agency.

However, it now expects that to be cut to 31 million doses due to “production problems” at a vaccine factory in Belgium run by its partner Novasep.

Earlier, the Financial Times reported that supplies to the UK would not be affected.

Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said on Twitter: “@EU_Commission and Member States expressed deep dissatisfaction with this.

“We insisted on a precise delivery schedule on the basis of which Member States should be planning their vaccination programs, subject to the granting of a conditional marketing authorisation.

“The @EU_Commission will continue to insist with @AstraZeneca on measures to increase predictability and stability of deliveries, and acceleration of the distribution of doses.”

A statement from AstraZeneca said: “While there is no scheduled delay to the start of shipments of our vaccine should we receive approval in Europe, initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain.

“We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes.”

The EU drug regulator is due to decide on approval of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on 29 January, with a deal to purchase at least 300 million doses, with an option for an additional 100 million already signed

Europe’s immunisation campaign has already been hampered by a temporary shortfall in the supply chain of vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech, who are retooling a site in Belgium to boost output.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 25 January 2021

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