News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 8 November 2021

Media Coverage

Those eligible for Covid boosters to be invited a month earlier in England
The Guardian, Sarah Marsh, 06 November 2021

The Guardian reports that booster jabs will be available for those who need them a month earlier than expected in England, in an effort to speed up the programme. This means that those eligible will receive their booking invitation five months after their second dose instead of six.

The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said the plans would “accelerate the booster programme”. He urged people not to delay getting jabbed.

Dr Michelle Drage, Chief Executive of Londonwide LMCs, which represents GPs in 27 of the capital’s 32 boroughs, doubted that the change would increase uptake much. “It may make a small difference. But it doesn’t tackle the levels of vaccine hesitancy and denial that are prevalent in communities right now.”

Boosters need injection of urgency after deaths of double-jabbed over-70s
The Telegraph, Paul Nuki and Sarah Newey, 06 November 2021

The Telegraph reports on the difficulty of getting the booster shot out to communities, and the difficulties the NHS faces over the winter. One reason cited is the difference in the involvement of GPs compared to the first Covid-vaccination campaign. Many have not got involved this time, as demand on their time has increased, making it more difficult to reach older cohorts.

A second challenge is the distribution of antivirals. Pfizer’s new pill cut the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89 percent, and if the logistics of the distribution is done right it could take the heat out of the health system.

Dr Bharat Pankhania, a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Exeter, said that antivirals should be rolled out the way Tamiflu was in the 2008/9 swine flu pandemic. She said, “We had an army of people delivering pills to collection centres where people could come and pick up the pills”, continuing, “writing an individual prescription for a patient is not going to work.” The supply of antivirals, however, remain severely limited.

Boots ends pharmacy provision in 22 stores
P3 Pharmacy, Editorial Staff, 05 November 2021

P3 Pharmacy reports that Boots has said it plans to end pharmacy provisions in 22 of its stores, while keeping the stores themselves open for retain purposes.

A spokesperson commented: “At Boots, we aim to serve our customers however and wherever they need us, both in stores and online. We continually review our pharmacy network to ensure that we balance our commitment to offer provision where it is most needed with our need to adapt to a changing market environment”

Commenting on the news, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association said the closure of in-store pharmacies could lead to redundancies but added: “Though a specific role may be redundant, this does not automatically mean the individual ceases their employment if suitable alternative employment can be found.”

The PDA Union said it would “proactively support any pharmacists impacted by such a change”.

This was also reported in the Pharmaceutical Journal and the Chemist + Druggist.

Global NHS Suppliers Pledge to Decarbonise Supply Chain by 2045
Medscape, Becky McCall, 05 November 2021

Medscape reports that NHS suppliers pledge to decarbonise the NHS supply chain by 2045, according to an open letter to the 80,000 global NHS suppliers, penned by the International Leadership Group for a Net Zero NHS.

Led by Lord Prior, Chairman of NHS England, other signatories include leaders of major NHS suppliers; key trade bodies, The BMJ; the charity, the Health Foundation; and EAT – the non-profit science based global platform for food system transformation.

Ministers warned about energy crisis impact on cold chain
Logistics ManagerNick Bradley, 04 November 2021

Logistics Manager reports that the Cold Chain Federation has urged the Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, to prioritise cold storage operators in any plans to protect UK industry from ill effects of soaring energy prices.

It has warned of the risk that without support, some businesses could fold under the massive increase in electricity costs, which would have serious consequences for the continuity of the supply chain. Due to its critical role in sustaining food and pharmaceutical chains, they asked that cold storage should be treated as a priority in any support packages.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today. 


Full Coverage

Those eligible for Covid boosters to be invited a month earlier in England
The Guardian, Sarah Marsh, 06 November 2021

Booster jabs will be available to book for those who need them a month earlier than expected in England, in an effort to speed up the programme, the government has announced.

Those eligible for the top-up vaccination will receive their booking invitation five months after their second dose instead of six, after a change to the system means boosters can be prebooked.

Office for National Statistics figures show that the prevalence of coronavirus infections in England remained at about 1 in 50 people in the week ending 30 October, steadying at its highest level of the year. Prevalence was unchanged from the previous week, after five weeks of rising infections.

Infection rates decreased for older secondary school pupils over the week, the ONS said, dropping to 7.5% from 9.1% the previous week.

Other suggestions that the spread of Covid is slowing include England’s R number falling to between 0.9 and 1.1, down from a previous estimate of 1.1-1.3.

More than 9m top-up jabs have already been administered across the UK and from Monday, the English booking system will allow someone to prebook their booster appointment a month before they are eligible. Everyone over 50 and all those most at risk from Covid-19 should get a booster six months after their second dose. Currently, someone can only book an appointment at six months.The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said the plans would “accelerate the booster programme”. He urged people not to delay getting jabbed.

Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, which represents GPs in 27 of the capital’s 32 boroughs, doubted that the change would increase uptake much. “It may make a small difference. But it doesn’t tackle the levels of vaccine hesitancy and denial that are prevalent in communities right now.”

But Ruth Rankine, director of primary care at the NHS Confederation, applauded the move. “Vaccination remains at the heart of our response to the pandemic,” she said. “Primary care sites will do everything they can to ensure that those eligible for vaccination get them without delay, and to do that well, the supply will need to match the volume and timing of appointments as they are booked.”

The latest evidence from the government scientific advisory panel shows that protection against symptomatic disease falls from 65%, up to three months after the second dose, to 45% six months after the second dose for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and from 90% to 65% for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The booster programme is designed to top up this waning immunity. Early results from Pfizer show that a booster after a primary schedule of the same vaccine restores protection to 95.6% against symptomatic infection.

The vaccines minister, Maggie Throup, said it was vital that people book their slots ahead of winter to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The NHS national medical director for England, Stephen Powis, said: “While this winter is undoubtedly going to be different, the most important thing you can do is come forward for both your Covid booster and flu jab as soon as possible – now with the added convenience of booking in advance – making it even easier to protect yourself and loves ones.”

The offer of a first and second Covid-19 vaccine is open to anyone who is eligible. Vaccines are available free of charge and from thousands of vaccine centres, GP practices and pharmacies.

There are more than 500 extra vaccination sites now in England compared with April this year, up from 1,697 to more than 2,500.

Vaccines are also available in schools for those aged 12-15, to offer the best possible protection this winter, as well as in more than 200 vaccine centres.

Boosters need injection of urgency after deaths of double-jabbed over-70s
The Telegraph, Paul Nuki and Sarah Newey, 06 November 2021

There are deaths and there are needless deaths.

On Thursday, the government published its 44th vaccine surveillance report and in a table on page 18 it noted 2,032 deaths of double-vaccinated individuals over 70. More than 3,000 from the same double-jabbed cohort were hospitalised.

The deaths are notable because some – perhaps most of them – could have been prevented with a booster shot.

A few may have had a third jab but the data covers a four-week window in October and for the vast majority, a booster, if it arrived at all, would have come too late. If, like in Israel, our booster campaign had started in late July it could have been a very different story.

John Roberts, a member of the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group, who has been tracking the UK booster campaign since its launch on September 16, prefers not to dwell on what might have been. He is focused instead on the six “crucial weeks” in the run-up to the intergenerational mixing fest that is Christmas.

“If the booster programme is as effective as we expect it to be in terms of saving lives, then the faster we do it the more lives we will save”, he said. “I don’t think there can be any ambiguity about that”.

Covid case numbers have been falling across the UK for the last two weeks and most modelling suggests the decline should continue unless we suddenly see a rapid return to pre-pandemic levels of mixing. At the moment, many people continue to work from home, keeping reported contact rates for adults at about half the pre-pandemic norm.

England’s infection rate high as ever

On the other hand, for those of us who are out and about, the virus is never far away. The latest Office for National Statistics survey estimates the infection rate for England to be at about 1 in 50 – pretty much as high as has ever been recorded.

It is the high incidence of the virus combined with some vaccine hesitancy and the waning of protection offered by existing vaccines that is giving experts pause for thought. The NHS is also once again overstretched, with long waiting times for ambulances and even emergency admissions. On top of all that, there is the general unpredictability of things.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re going to get through the winter but that’s by no means certain”, Sir John Bell, professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, told the BBC on Saturday. “One thing that we have learned from this pandemic, not just in the UK, but globally, is that these waves come and go in a relatively unpredictable way”.

It is against this backdrop of the UK pandemic drawing to a likely end over the next six months, that new deaths will be judged. Already more than 13,000 have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test since “Freedom Day” on July 19. With boosters available and new antivirals about to come on stream, every additional life lost seems especially tragic.

“It was almost like a war effort with the first vaccine programme. And, you know, maybe we don’t have that same sort of energy behind this one”, says Mr Roberts of the current booster campaign, which has still to reach more six million people who are eligible.

The main difference between the two campaigns is the involvement of GPs who delivered some 70 per cent of initial vaccinations. Many have not got involved this time around as demand on their time has increased. This, in turn, may have made it more difficult to reach older cohorts who are used to dealing with their local practice, says Mr Roberts.

As Christmas looms, ministers are now trying to catch up. From Monday, people will be able to book their Covid-19 booster jab a month before they are eligible, which it is hoped will speed things up. “Covid-19 vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your family ahead of a challenging winter and this change to the booking system will make it as easy as possible for people to book their booster jabs,” said Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary.

The next big challenge will be the distribution of antivirals. The news that Pfizer’s new pill cuts the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89 per cent is a potential game-changer. It raises the prospect that nine in ten of all deaths could be prevented. It could also take much of the heat out of the health system if the logistics of distribution can be got right.

Antivirals must be widely distributed

But that may not be easy as the pill must be taken within just a few days of symptoms onset. Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter, said Covid antivirals should be rolled out the way Tamiflu was in the 2008\9 swine flu pandemic. Then the tablets were distributed to local collection points around the country – chemists, GP surgeries etc – and were handed out to patients without prescription.

“We had an army of people delivering pills to collection centres where people could come and pick up the pills”, recalled Dr Pankhania. “Writing an individual prescription for a patient is not going to work.”

Others wondered if the new miracle pills may arrive too late. They are only just coming on stream and it will take at least six months for volumes to scale up.

“The problem is we have very limited supplies of both these agents here in the UK”, said Professor Penny Ward, a pharmaceutical expert at King’s College London. “I don’t know how fast Pfizer can ramp up, while Merck can only produce 10 million for the whole world this year – which really is a drop in the ocean when you compare that to the number of high risk individuals who might benefit.”

Boots ends pharmacy provision in 22 stores
P3 Pharmacy, Editorial Staff, 05 November 2021

Boots has said it plans to end pharmacy provision in 22 of its stores “in the coming months” while keeping the stores themselves open for retail purposes.

It is unclear as yet which stores will be affected. A spokesperson told Pharmacy Network News that the decision did not signal a wider store closure programme in the near future.

The spokesperson commented: “At Boots, we aim to serve our customers however and wherever they need us, both in stores and online. We continually review our pharmacy network to ensure that we balance our commitment to offer provision where it is most needed with our need to adapt to a changing market environment.

“Sometimes this means opening new pharmacies and sometimes it means taking a decision to close some. In the coming months we will close a small number as part of this ongoing review.

“Many of these pharmacies are close to other Boots stores that offer pharmacy provision and we will offer pharmacy team members alternative roles at Boots wherever possible.”

They added: “We have opened almost 20 new stores in 2020 and 2021 and continue to look at new locations that Boots stores can succeed.”

The spokesperson told Pharmacy Network News that the majority of the new stores opened in the past two years contain pharmacies.

Commenting on the news, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association said the closure of in-store pharmacies could lead to redundancies but added: “Though a specific role may be redundant, this does not automatically mean the individual ceases their employment if suitable alternative employment can be found.”

The PDA Union said its recognition agreement with the company means Boots has to inform the union of any redundancy plans.

The Union said it would “proactively support any pharmacists impacted by such a change”.

This was also reported in the Pharmaceutical Journal and the Chemist + Druggist.

Global NHS Suppliers Pledge to Decarbonise Supply Chain by 2045
Medscape, Becky McCall, 05 November 2021

NHS suppliers pledge to decarbonise the NHS supply chain by 2045, according to an open letter to the 80,000 global NHS suppliers, penned by the International Leadership Group for a net zero NHS.

The pledge supports the aim of the NHS in England to become the world’s first net zero health service. Led by Lord Prior, chairman of NHS England, other signatories include leaders of major NHS suppliers; key trade bodies, The BMJ; the charity, the Health Foundation; and EAT – the non-profit science based global platform for food system transformation.

Ministers warned about energy crisis impact on cold chain
Logistics ManagerNick Bradley, 04 November 2021

The Cold Chain Federation has urged the Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng to prioritise cold storage operators in any plans to protect UK industry from ill effects of soaring energy prices.

The Federation represents the businesses across the UK which store and move fresh and frozen food and other goods. It has warned of the risk that without support some cold chain businesses could fold under the massive increase in electricity costs, which would have serious consequences for the continuity of the food supply chain.

In a letter, the Cold Chain Federation has asked the Business Secretary to include cold storage operators in any support packages and to treat cold storage as a priority in the event of an energy shortage due to its critical role in sustaining food and pharmaceutical supply chains.

The letter stresses that storing food safely and reliably at controlled temperatures requires constant energy use and that some cold storage businesses are now seeing huge increases in the cost of their electricity, in some cases 50-200%. This could add millions of pounds to the annual running costs of larger cold stores and threatens the existence of individual businesses, further destabilising and reducing the capacity of an already fragile food supply chain.

In situations where increased costs could be passed on through the supply chain, this would amplify the food price inflation which is already anticipated due to increases in labour costs throughout the food supply chain.

“The challenges of the past two years have shown time and time again why the cold chain is so crucial for food supply,” said Tom Southall, Policy Director at the Cold Chain Federation. “Cold storage operators are resilient, experienced and incredibly hard working but the soaring electricity costs on top of the labour shortage, Brexit and the pandemic is creating an overwhelming burden. If the crisis continues and government needs to step in to prevent widespread failures in energy intensive industries, cold storage must be a high priority or we will all feel the effects of major disruption to fresh and frozen food supply.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 8 November 2021

From Factory to Pharmacy

As part of our mission to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the vital importance of the healthcare distribution sector, we developed an infographic explaining the availability of medicines. It identifies the factors that can impact drug supply, as well as the measures that HDA members undertake day in, day out to help mitigate the risks of patients not receiving their medicines.

See the Infographic

Apply to become a Member

Membership of the HDA guarantees your organisation:

  • Access to leading policy and industry forums of debate and discussion
  • Invitations to a range of networking industry events organised through the year, including an Annual Conference and a Business Day
  • Representation on HDA working parties, including the Members’ Liaison Group
  • A daily Political and Media Bulletin and HDA Newsletters
  • Access to HDA policy documents and all sections of the HDA website
  • Branding and marketing opportunities
Apply Now

Already a Member?