I spent yesterday speaking to national and local leaders involved in the vaccine roll out and can update you as follows.
I joined a call with Emily Lawson, who is heading the NHS Covid-19 mass vaccination programme (with specific responsibility for distribution) and Nadhim Zahawi who is the Government Minister responsible for vaccines.
They told MPs that the first 1 million vaccines had been administered by New Year’s Eve, and there is now a plan for rapid scale up which is made possible in part by the authorisation of the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine and also by the anticipated authorisation of the Moderna vaccine in the coming weeks. Ms. Lawson said that they plan to release data every Thursday with accurate data on the number who have been vaccinated.
It is well known that for all its effectiveness the Pfizer vaccine involves logistical challenges particularly around temperature, transportation and storage. This is not the case with the Oxford vaccine.
However it is important to note that all of these are novel vaccines which are being mass-produced during a period of intense global demand. The manufacturing process itself is complex and each batch must be tested for safety before it is sent out. Therefore it is important to flag at the outset that the production and distribution of vaccines is not straightforward.
In terms of distribution, the focus has been on working with Primary Care Networks and establishing the opening of large vaccination centres across the country. Once these are set up, more vaccines will be made available to GP surgeries and community pharmacies as they become available.
I spoke to West Berkshire CCG personnel yesterday who said that the week commencing 11 January remains the date when vaccines will become available here.
I am told that both the Pfizer and Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccines will be available that week although I should stress that the precise date of arrival is not yet known.
To respond to some of the questions I have been asked:
- Why was the Pfizer vaccine not distributed by individual GP surgeries?
The decision about whether or not to administer the Pfizer vaccine was an operational one that was taken by GP surgeries themselves. From those that I have spoken to who decided not to offer it, there was a concern about the logistical challenges of storage and temperature. That is why a vaccine centre was the preferred option for many GP surgeries.
- Will the vaccine be distributed directly to care homes?
I understand that it will, yes.
- What is the order of priority?
The order of priority which is the current focus of the vaccination programme has been decided by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and is set out in the following attachment:
- Should I contact my GP to get myself on the list?
No. GPs already hold patient data and know their ages and vulnerabilities. You will be contacted directly by your GP (much as you would be for a flu jab). I would only stress that you do have to be registered with a GP to receive the vaccine.
If you do wish to raise an issue you are invited to contact the Berkshire Patient Advice Liaison Service who are dealing with questions arising for the vaccine, at email@example.com
- What is the breakdown of people in the first four priority categories in West Berkshire?
I have requested this information and when it is provided to me, I will post. For now, each GP surgery holds patient data and is therefore able to organise patients according to their priority place.
Two further points that I want to draw to your attention:
- MPs have today asked the Department of Health to create a vaccine dashboard – much like the Coronavirus dashboard – which enables you to see local stats of who has been vaccinated as the weeks progress. I will continue to ask for this.
- If you would like to volunteer to assist with vaccine work, you can find the relevant details to do so here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/.../join-the-nhs-covid-19.../