News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 29 March 2021

Media Summary

Moderna’s COVID vaccine to be rolled out in UK from April

The Financial Times, Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe, 28 March 2021

The Financial Times reports that the Government announced yesterday that Moderna’s Coronavirus vaccine will be rolled out in the UK from next month. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed the jab made by the US company was expected to be administered by the NHS from April.

The UK has ordered 17m doses of the two-dose vaccine, which was approved by the MHRA in January and is 95 per cent effective in preventing the disease. It is the third Coronavirus vaccine to be rolled out in the UK after the BioNTech/Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs.

Despite recent concerns over supplies, the Government said it would be able to offer second doses within 12 weeks and remained confident in its ability to inoculate all adults by the end of July, Dowden told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

It is hoped that the introduction of Moderna jabs next month will ease pressure on the supply of vaccines for under-50s, who have been warned that their inoculations could be delayed following delays in the delivery of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India.

This was reported in a number of outlets, including The Telegraph and the Evening Standard.

Britain ready to seal COVID vaccine deal with EU

The Times, Oliver Wright and Bruno Waterfield, 28 March 2021

The Times reports that Britain is close to striking a vaccine deal with the European Union under which the EU will remove its threat to ban the export of Pfizer-BioNTech jabs to Britain. In return the Government will agree to forgo some long-term supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that had been due to be exported from Holland.

A European Commission spokesman said: “The discussions with the UK are ongoing. We do not have any comments to make at the moment on the content of those discussions. But as you know our common aim is to ensure that we have good co-operation in terms of supply chains in terms of producing the vaccine.”

Ministers have insisted that the delivery of second doses in the UK would still be carried out on schedule, even if planned shipments from a plant in the Netherlands were blocked. India has also halted the shipment of about five million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses due in the UK this month, resulting in the Government suspending plans to roll out first doses to under-50s.

This was reported in a number of outlets, including City A.M. and the Evening Standard.

EU medicines regulator approves new vaccine production sites

AP News, Editorial staff, 26 March 2021

AP News reports that the EU’s medicines regulator has approved new manufacturing sites for Coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, in a move to boost Europe’s supply of the shots and speed vaccination efforts across the continent. The new approvals come amid the 27-nation bloc’s struggles to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination and repeated delivery delays and manufacturing problems.

The EMA also said it was granting “more flexible storage conditions” to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was cleared on the basis that it needed ultra-cold freezer temperatures for storage and delivery. The approval “is expected to facilitate the rapid roll-out and distribution of the vaccine in the EU by reducing the need for ultra-low temperature cold storage conditions throughout the supply chain,” the regulator said.

The approvals come after EU leaders failed to settle a fight about the distribution of COVID-19 shots among member states but pledged to strengthen vaccine export controls and production on EU soil amid a shortage of doses and spikes in new cases.

This was reported in a number of outlets, including Politico and Euronews.

50 to 64-year-olds added to 2021/22 flu programme

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Magazine editorial staff, 26 March 2021

P3 Pharmacy reports that people aged 50 to 64 are expected to be included as an eligible cohort in the 2021/22 flu vaccination programme according to NHS England & Improvement’s latest Primary Care Bulletin. It advises that the flu reimbursement letter is currently being updated to reflect the inclusion and will be republished imminently.

Pharmacy providers are asked to await the updated flu reimbursement letter for more information, before amending their orders for vaccines. The 50-64 age group was included for the first time in the 2020/21 programme as a measure to help reduce the impact of COVID-19.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons Question – 26 March 2021

Mr Steve Baker (Conservative, Wycombe): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will publish an updated timetable for the estimated (a) regulatory approval and (b) delivery to the NHS of the (i) Novavax and (ii) Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines; and if he will make a statement.

Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative, Stratford-on-Avon): Reviews are underway by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to assess the Johnson & Johnson (known by Janssen in Europe) and Novavax vaccines. Any vaccines that are made available will have been authorised because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy. If and when those vaccines are authorised by the MHRA, we expect to receive the doses for both vaccines in the second half of this year.

House of Commons Question – 25 March 2021

Chi Onwurah (Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne Central): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether he plans to write off the £ 370 million advance payments provided to community pharmacy owners to cover costs incurred during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Jo Churchill (Conservative, Bury St Edmunds): Discussions are ongoing with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee about additional funding for costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of its ongoing assessment of COVID-19 costs incurred by the sector, the Government will take account of the £370 million increased advance payments paid to community pharmacies.

The COVID-19 support package for community pharmacy also included general COVID-19 business financial support, funding for Bank Holiday openings, social distancing measures and the medicine delivery service to shielded patients and free personal protective equipment, as well as non-monetary support, including the removal of some administrative tasks, flexibility in opening hours and the delayed introduction of new services.

 

Full Coverage

Moderna’s COVID vaccine to be rolled out in UK from April

The Financial Times, Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe, 28 March 2021

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

This was reported in a number of outlets, including The Telegraph and the Evening Standard.

Britain ready to seal COVID vaccine deal with EU

The Times, Oliver Wright and Bruno Waterfield, 28 March 2021

Britain is close to striking a vaccine deal with the European Union that will remove the threat of the bloc cutting off supplies.

After a week of frantic behind-the-scenes diplomacy the two sides are expected to seal an agreement as soon as this weekend under which the EU will remove its threat to ban the export of Pfizer-BioNTech jabs to Britain. In return the Government will agree to forgo some long-term supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that had been due to be exported from Holland.

Senior diplomatic sources said the secret talks, which began last Saturday conducted by the former EU Ambassador Sir Tim Barrow, had helped restore trust despite the public rhetoric.

Two sources said the decision to use Barrow rather than Lord Frost, the minister responsible for EU relations, had been key to unlocking a deal.

“For us it was very significant that Johnson did not use Frost but instead went through the Foreign Office,” said one EU diplomat. “It showed that he was really serious about finding a compromise and trying to build trust.”

Barrow was dispatched to Brussels hours after the Government was forced to admit just over a week ago that it would have to delay extending the UK’s vaccination programme to the under-50s because of a shortfall.

On Wednesday the two sides issued a joint statement saying they were working to “ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on COVID-19”.

In a call with President Biden, Boris Johnson is said to have emphasised that “global access to vaccines will be key to defeating the pandemic”.

France’s Foreign Minister claimed yesterday that because of supply shortages, Britain would struggle to source second doses for those who have already had their first. In provocative comments Jean-Yves Le Drian claimed that the UK programme had been over-optimistic about supplies. He suggested on France Info radio that the EU should not help Britain with a problem of its own making. “The UK is proud to have vaccinated many people with the first dose, but they will have a problem with the second dose,” he said.

“We can’t accept any sort of blackmail. The UK is pushing for the first jab, knowing there will be problems with the second one. Europe does not have to pay the price for this policy.”

Ministers have always insisted that the delivery of second doses in the UK would still be carried out on schedule, even if planned shipments from a plant in the Netherlands were blocked.

India has also halted the shipment of about five million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses due in the UK this month. This resulted in the Government suspending plans to roll out first doses to under-50s.

According to the UK Government’s latest data, 55 per cent of adults aged over 18 have received a first jab and 5.3 per cent have had a second dose. Johnson said that the UK had sufficient supplies to ensure that people would be given their second jabs on time. “We will have the second doses that people need within the 12-week window, which means around 12 million people in April,” he said.

A European Commission spokesman said: “The discussions with the UK are ongoing. We do not have any comments to make at the moment on the content of those discussions. But as you know our common aim is to ensure that we have good co-operation in terms of supply chains in terms of producing the vaccine.”

A study of more than 200 healthcare workers has found that people infected with COVID-19 produced six times the immune response after a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The research looked at antibodies and T-cells, which can lessen symptoms.

The study, a pre-print version of which is on The Lancet website, was led by Oxford and Sheffield universities and backed by the Department of Health. It suggests that being infected is similar to receiving the first jab in priming the immune system. However, its authors cautioned that people who have had COVID-19 should still get two doses to ensure long-lasting protection.

Over-70s and frontline health and social care workers will start to receive booster jabs from September under plans revealed last night by Nadhim Zahawi, the Vaccines Minister.

This was reported in a number of outlets, including City A.M. and the Evening Standard.

EU medicines regulator approves new vaccine production sites

AP News, Editorial staff, 26 March 2021

The European Union’s medicines regulator on Friday said it has approved new manufacturing sites for Coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, in a move that could significantly boost Europe’s supply of the shots and speed vaccination efforts across the continent.

The European Medicines Agency said in a statement that it had approved sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland for the COVID-19 vaccines made by the companies.

The new approvals come amid the 27-nation bloc’s struggles to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination and repeated delivery delays and manufacturing problems.

The EMA said it had approved a factory in Leiden, the Netherlands, to make the active substance for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, bringing the number of such licensed sites to four.

The EU regulator said it was also giving the green light to a site in Marburg, Germany, to make both the active substance and completed vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer.

In addition, the EMA said it was granting “more flexible storage conditions” to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – which was cleared on the basis that it needed ultra-cold freezer temperatures for storage and delivery.

That approval “is expected to facilitate the rapid roll-out and distribution of the vaccine in the EU by reducing the need for ultra-low temperature cold storage conditions throughout the supply chain,” the regulator said.

Last week, an expert committee at the EMA recommended new manufacturing lines at a facility in Visp, Switzerland for the Moderna Inc. vaccine.

These changes are “intended to scale up production capacity and increase supply of the vaccine for the EU market,” the regulator said.

All COVID-19 vaccines meant for use in the EU must have their manufacturing sites approved by the EMA after a regulatory evaluation.

On Thursday, EU leaders failed to settle a fight about the distribution of COVID-19 shots among member states but pledged to strengthen vaccine export controls and production on EU soil amid a shortage of doses and spikes in new cases.

At the end of the summit, the bloc’s 27 nations were still locked in a dispute over how an upcoming batch of 10 million doses could be allocated to narrow the vaccine gap between member states, and the leaders decided to push the talks to a future meeting of their ambassadors.

This was reported in a number of outlets, including Politico and Euronews.

50 to 64-year-olds added to 2021/22 flu programme

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Magazine editorial staff, 26 March 2021

People aged 50 to 64 are expected to be included as an eligible cohort in the 2021/22 flu vaccination programme, according to NHS England & Improvement’s latest Primary Care Bulletin (March 24).

It advises that the flu reimbursement letter is currently being updated to reflect the inclusion and will be republished imminently.

Pharmacy providers are asked to await the updated flu reimbursement letter for more information, before amending their orders for vaccines.

The 50-64 age group was included for the first time in the 2020/21 programme as a measure to help reduce the impact of COVID-19.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 29 March 2021

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