Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to start rollout next week
I'm thrilled that the UK has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech and am particularly reassured that studies have shown the vaccine to be 95 per cent effective and works in all age groups. The news of safe and effective vaccines is exactly what we all need - giving us hope that our economy can start to recover and that life can return to normal once again. But as we head into Christmas we must not waste the huge effort we have all made - we need to keep transmission of the virus down.
The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.
This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will shortly also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable. (The Department of Health and Social Care).
COVID-19 vaccine FAQs
I thought it would be useful to set out a few answers to questions that you might be asking, and I'll update this list as more information is provided.
When will the vaccine start being issued?
The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week. However, it is important that we all understand that deploying many millions of vaccines is going to take time. The first phase will see 800,000 vaccines being deployed from next week with more vaccines being delivered and deployed over the comings weeks and months.
Who will get the vaccine first?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has, over the past months, examined the data on who suffers the worst outcomes from coronavirus and who is at highest risk of death. Their full guidance can be found here.
The JCVI priority list at December 2 says the order of priority should be:
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- All those 80 years of age and over
- Frontline health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over
- Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals*
- All those 65 years of age and over
- All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- All those 60 years of age and over
- All those 55 years of age and over
- All those 50 years of age and over
* Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are described here.
How will the vaccine be rolled out?
I understand a huge logistical exercise has been taking place to ensure that NHS staff are ready to start delivering the vaccine to the most vulnerable, as well as health and care workers, as a priority. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, has said rolling out the vaccine across the UK would be “challenging” because it needed to be kept at -70C and that a network of 50 hospitals was ready, alongside which specialist vaccination centres were being built.
It is possible that the NHS Nightingale Hospitals will also be used as sites for mass vaccination clinics and that teams will be deployed to vaccinate workers and residents of care homes. More healthcare workers will be able to administer the COVID-19 vaccine following new regulations by the Government.
The NHS has plenty of experience delivering vaccines to huge numbers of people, for example this winter's flu jab should reach 30 million.
How do we know the vaccines are safe?
The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in the UK. The MHRA is one of the world’s leading medicines regulatory agencies and they have today provided details of their approval process.
Do I have to have a vaccine if I don't want to?
I have heard nothing to suggest a COVID-19 vaccine will be compulsory - no other vaccines in the UK are. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, earlier today said that while he "strongly urges people to take up the vaccine", it is "not part of our culture or ambition in this country to make vaccines mandatory. That's not how we do things."
How many vaccines will I need?
It is understood patients will need two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine with 21-28 days between each dose.
I'm pregnant can I get the vaccine now?
The information I have advises that pregnant women will not be provided with the vaccine in the first phase as there is insufficient supporting data.
Who do I contact to get hold of a vaccination?
You do not need to contact anyone - the NHS will contact you to invite you to have a vaccine. Remember the rollout of vaccines is going to take quite some time and will be organised so that the most vulnerable people are best protected.
Should I still get a flu vaccine?
Yes. The advice is that you should still get a flu vaccine as soon as you are invited to by your local NHS service. The Government has invested in more flu vaccines than ever before, and vaccine uptake is higher in all groups, except pregnant women, compared to this time last year. However, provisional data demonstrates that more people in priority groups, do need to get the vaccine.
Provisional data suggests uptake rates are:
- 75.0% in 65+ year olds
- 51.6% in healthcare workers
- 41.2% in under 65 years in a clinical risk group
- 47.6% in 2 year olds
- 49.4% in 3-year olds
- 32.2% in pregnant women
- 19.8% in school age children
How many doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been ordered?
The UK has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – the vaccine that has been approved, with 800,000 doses of the vaccine arriving next week.The UK has also secured access to:
- 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine
- 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine
- 30 million doses from Janssen
- 60 million doses of a vaccine being developed by Valneva
- 60 million doses of protein adjuvant vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur
- Seven million doses of the Vaccine on from Moderna
What about approval for the other vaccines?
Recent data from the Oxford/AstraZeneca, and Moderna vaccine trials suggests their vaccines also work well – but as at today's date, December 2 2020, the UK has only gained regulatory approved for the Pfizer vaccine.