HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 30 June 2021

Media Summary

Not enough Pfizer and Moderna doses to vaccinate against Covid faster
The Times, Rhys Blakely and Tom Whipple, 30 June 2021
The Times reports that the eight-week interval between doses of Covid vaccines cannot be reduced at this stage due to supply factors.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are only being used for younger adults in the UK due to the risk of this population group developing rare blood clots from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. To keep the pace against the Delta variant, the current priority is providing first doses to as many younger adults as possible.

Pfizer has stated that all contractual targets agreed by the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce are being met.

 Parliamentary Coverage

Written Question – House of Commons, 21 June 2021
Stuart Anderson (Conservative, Wolverhampton South West): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what estimate he has made of the number of pharmacists who have become independent prescribers.

Written Answer – House of Commons, 29 June 2021
Jo Churchill (Conservative, Bury St Edmunds): The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is the independent regulator of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacies in Great Britain. The GPhC’s register, which pharmacists must apply to for an annotation to be added to their register entry before practising as an independent prescriber, shows that as of June 2021 there are 9,252 independent pharmacist prescribers in England.


Full Coverage

Not enough Pfizer and Moderna doses to vaccinate against Covid faster
The Times, Rhys Blakely and Tom Whipple, 30 June 2021

The supply from Pfizer and Moderna is now the main limiting factor in the coronavirus vaccine programme, analysts say, preventing a reduction in the eight-week interval between doses as the race against the Delta variant continues.

The government was advised last month under-40s should be offered an alternative to the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab because of a small risk of blood clots, given the low prevalence of the virus and the availability of other shots.

Only imported doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Modena vaccines are being used for people in their twenties and thirties. “It appears from the data available that Pfizer and Moderna supplies are the pace-limiting factor,” Matt Linley, an analyst at Airfinity, a data company tracking the vaccine campaign, said.

Getting as many first doses into younger adults is a priority. This is a reason why the eight-week interval is being kept for the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, even though a shorter gap still gives strong protection.

Completing second doses for people in their forties and fifties, most of whom will have had AstraZeneca as a first shot, is also urgent. However, there is good evidence that the Oxford vaccine works better with a longer interval between shots. This has contributed to the decision to maintain the eight-week gap, even though it appears that supplies could allow a shorter one.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the government, said: “I want to emphasise the importance of getting a second dose for all adults, but especially for those over 50 who remain unvaccinated,”

Trial results released this week showed that mixing one shot of the Oxford vaccine with a shot of Pfizer could provide better protection than two shots of the Oxford jab. However, Professor Matthew Snape, of the University of Oxford, who was chief investigator on the trial, said that the results needed to be treated with caution.

The study included about 830 participants, only 415 of whom had a mixture of vaccines. “That’s not a sample size where we can say, ‘OK we’ve . . . excluded rare side effects,” he said. “We simply haven’t and we’re not pretending we have — with 400 participants you do not pick up your one-in-1,000 side effects, let alone your one-in-50,000 side effects.” The trial had also relied on measuring immune responses by analysing the blood of the participants.

Researchers are not yet certain on how these translate to protection in the real world. By contrast, there is evidence showing that two doses of either the Oxford or Pfizer vaccine is effective at reducing hospitalisations and death.

“I do think if circumstances dictated, then you can use these mixed schedules,” Snape said. “But to my mind, you are better defaulting to the ones where we know that they work, and that are a known quantity when it comes to their safety.”

Pfizer said that its plant in Puurs, Belgium, which is supplying the UK, was meeting the targets agreed by the government’s Vaccine Taskforce.

Airfinity said that all adults should have had at least one dose by July 24.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 30 June 2021

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