News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 26 January 2021

Media Summary

2,000 ‘crucial’ COVID-19 vaccine supply chain workers to be immunised
Chemist + Druggist, Aleks Phillips, 25 January

Chemist + Druggist reports that up to 2,000 people who work in roles “crucial” to the continued supply of COVID-19 vaccines are to be offered the jab. The plan to immunise “irreplaceable” workers aims to prevent an outbreak disrupting deliveries of the vaccine to vaccination sites, the Government explained last week.

As well as staff working for the two main vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, those involved in the end-to-end supply chain will be vaccinated. “While each supplier follows strict COVID-secure guidelines, the nature of the job and the close proximity of staff means infections cannot be ruled out,” the Department for Health said.

Martin Sawer, HDA Executive Director, told Chemist + Druggist: “We are assuming that this latest announcement also includes some key parts of our network, but the HDA believes that the regular supplies of all critical medicines should be supported in this way, as is the case for community pharmacy already.”

 

COVID-19: Vaccine minister ‘confident’ of supplies
BBC News, Editorial Team, 26 January

BBC News reports that supply of vaccines is “tight” but the Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi is confident that the UK will receive enough doses to meet its targets. It comes as the EU said it might tighten vaccine export controls.

Mr Zahawi said the UK had supplies of the Oxford vaccine manufactured domestically by AstraZeneca as well as those from Pfizer, which are made in Belgium. “I’m confident we will meet our mid-February target and continue beyond that,” he told the BBC, referring to the goal of giving a first dose to the 15 million people in the top four priority groups by then.

“Supplies are tight, they continue to be, these are new manufacturing processes,” Mr Zahawi added. “It’s lumpy and bumpy, it gets better and stabilises and improves going forward.”

 

UK doctors ask for ‘urgent review’ of COVID-19 vaccine second dose delay
Bio Pharma Reporter, Rachel Arthur, 25 January

Bio Pharma Reporter reports that the British Medical Association is calling for the delay between Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses to be reduced from 12 weeks to six weeks.

The UK’s top medical officers lengthened the gap between doses to allow more people to receive the first dose and therefore a certain level of protection. A gap of 12 weeks, however, is a big difference to other jurisdictions and advice since set out by the WHO (the WHO recommends six-week gaps in exceptional situations for the Pfizer/BioNTech solution).

The BMA has now written to the UK’s Chief Medical Officer to seek an ‘urgent review’ of the UK’s 12 week delay with this vaccine. A BMA spokesperson said: “The BMA remains fully committed to supporting the Chief Medical Officer and the government in rolling out the vaccine as quickly as possible to protect the public and health care workers most at risk. This letter to the Chief Medical Officer represents part of an ongoing dialogue about the best approach to the rollout of the vaccine and shares with him the growing concern regarding the delay of the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as the UK’s strategy has become increasingly isolated from many other countries.”

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Mutual aid and the transfer of COVID-19 vaccines between Hospital Hubs, Vaccination Centres and Local Vaccination Services
NHS England, 25 January

NHS England has published a policy for use by healthcare professionals and senior managers across the NHS who are responsible for the transfer and handling of COVID-19 vaccines.

This policy is intended to provide clear guidelines on the use of ‘mutual aid’ for COVID-19 vaccines – namely the transfer of a vaccine by one organisation or provider providing NHS COVID-19 vaccination services to another.

The policy documents say that, in general, there should be no mutual aid between any organisations as organisations will be expected to use the supplies made available and delivered directly to them to vaccinate their patients.

You can read the policy documents here.

 

House of Commons, Written Answer, 22 January

Jim Shannon (Democratic Unionist Party, Strangford): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether he is taking steps to work with pharmacies to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative, Statford-on-Avon): Since 14 January 2021, community pharmacies in England started to offer the COVID-19 vaccination service, with more pharmacies joining over the coming weeks. These sites have been designated by NHS England and NHS Improvement after an application process. They fill the gaps left where there is no Primary Care Network (PCN) or where the PCN offer is not enough, taking into consideration accessibility, especially in more deprived areas.

The Department, NHS England and NHS Improvement, and community pharmacy representative bodies will be working together to establish how community pharmacies’ role could be expanded further in the vaccination programme.

 

House of Commons, Written Answer, 22 January

Daisy Cooper (Liberal Democrat, St Albans): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of re-opening the COVID-19 vaccination centre application process to community pharmacies which have the capacity to deliver at least 100 vaccines per week.

Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative, Statford-on-Avon): NHS England and NHS Improvement wrote to pharmacies on 27 November 2020, explaining the process to apply to be designated as a vaccination service. This followed the Primary Care Network (PCN) designation process to map pharmacies to the gaps left where there is no PCN service or where the PCN offer is not enough, taking into consideration accessibility, especially in deprived populations.

There are key requirements, which must be met by all designated sites, together with other considerations. These include facilities, availability of workforce, equity of access, geographical coverage, and the total number of sites that can be accommodated within the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. Vaccinations will be provided to eligible cohorts from a variety of providers, who will be required to administer at least 1,000 doses of vaccine each week, in a way that minimises waste, and makes best use of the available supply.

 

Full Coverage

2,000 ‘crucial’ COVID-19 vaccine supply chain workers to be immunised
Chemist + Druggist, Aleks Phillips, 25 January

Up to 2,000 people who work in roles “crucial” to the continued supply of COVID-19 vaccines are to be offered the jab, the Department for Health and Social Care (DH) has said.

The plan to immunise “irreplaceable” workers aims to prevent an outbreak disrupting deliveries of the vaccine to vaccination sites, the DH explained last week (January 19).

As well as staff working for the two main vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, those involved in the end-to-end supply chain will be vaccinated, it explained.

“While each supplier follows strict COVID-secure guidelines, the nature of the job and the close proximity of staff means infections cannot be ruled out,” the DH said.

Martin Sawer, Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) Executive Director, told C+D: “We are assuming that this latest announcement […] also includes some key parts of our network, but the HDA believes that the regular supplies of all critical medicines should be supported in this way, as is the case for community pharmacy already.”

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) confirmed last November that pharmacy teams would receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a priority, “alongside all other health and social care professionals”.

“The process of vaccination of frontline healthcare staff, including pharmacy staff, has started in many areas,” PSNC said in guidance to contractors, with “the expectation to have made significant progress by the first week of February”.

NI and Scotland

While the DH said the initial immunisation of 2,000 supply chain workers had been agreed by all four nations, Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care Board confirmed to C+D that it plans to vaccinate all those involved in the medical supply chain, including wholesalers.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government told C+D: “A proportion of the supply chain workforce will be offered the vaccine in line with our priority list.

“We are currently considering whether other key worker groups could be considered a priority for vaccination, once the clinically high-risk groups have been vaccinated.”

 

COVID-19: Vaccine minister ‘confident’ of supplies
BBC News, Editorial Team, 26 January

Supplies of vaccines are “tight” but the UK is confident it will receive enough doses to meet its targets, the vaccine minister has said.

Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast that manufacturers were “confident” they would deliver for the UK amid warnings of production delays.

It comes as the EU said it might tighten vaccine export controls.

Countries should avoid “vaccine nationalism” and ensure a fair global supply, Mr Zahawi said.

Mr Zahawi said the UK had supplies of the Oxford vaccine manufactured domestically by AstraZeneca as well as the Pfizer one, which is made in Belgium.

“I’m confident we will meet our mid-February target and continue beyond that,” he told the BBC, referring to the goal of giving a first dose to the 15 million people in the top four priority groups by then.

“Supplies are tight, they continue to be, these are new manufacturing processes,” Mr Zahawi added. “It’s lumpy and bumpy, it gets better and stabilises and improves going forward.”

But he declined to say that he had received guarantees about the number of doses the UK would receive from Pfizer or other manufacturers and refused to confirm how many doses had already arrived.

Analysis

The latest tension over supply of the COVID vaccine is another illustration of just how fragile this issue is.

There are huge global demands for COVID vaccine, limited raw materials and constraints on manufacturing.

The UK already has enough vaccine to jab all the highest-risk groups by mid February, although not all of it has been packaged up or been through the final safety checks.

This explains why ministers are confident about the immediate target for the over 70s, health and care workers and the extremely clinically vulnerable.

But what is in doubt is how quickly the UK can vaccinate in the medium term.

With the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in the UK those supply routes are more guaranteed.

But the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is made in Belgium. The UK, like the rest of Europe, is affected by the problems with manufacturing that are being experienced with that vaccine.

With Europe experiencing major problems rolling out its vaccination programme – per head of population five times fewer vaccines have been delivered – this is a story that is going to rumble on for months.

The UK has placed orders for 367 million doses of vaccines from seven manufacturers, Mr Zahawi said. “As vaccines come along we will get more volume, millions more in the weeks and months to come,” he added.

The tension over vaccine supplies increased after UK-based AstraZeneca warned the EU it would have to reduce planned deliveries because of production problems. Pfizer-BioNTech has also said supplies will be temporarily lower as it works to increase capacity at its Belgian factory.

It has prompted the EU accuse AstraZeneca of failing to meet its commitments and to warn that it might require all companies producing COVID vaccines to provide “early notification” whenever they planned to export supplies out of the EU.

“The thing to do now is not to go down the dead end of vaccine nationalism. It’s to work together to protect our people,” Mr Zahawi said.

“No one is safe until the whole world is safe.”

Meanwhile, the UK has offered to carry out genomic sequencing for other countries around the world to help identify further new variants.

Public Health England said it would give “crucial early warning” of any mutations that might cause the virus to spread faster, make people more ill or possibly reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

With the UK aiming to offer COVID-19 vaccination to every adult by autumn, Mr Zahawi said confidence in the vaccines was high in the UK, with 85% saying they would accept the jab.

But he said that those who were hesitant “skew heavily” towards black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

The UK is recording the ethnicity and occupations of people who receive the vaccine and figures would be published soon, he said.

 

UK doctors ask for ‘urgent review’ of COVID-19 vaccine second dose delay
Bio Pharma Reporter, Rachel Arthur, 25 January

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

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 26 January 2021

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