THE first phase of the Covid vaccine roll out plan will eliminate 99 per cent of coronavirus-related deaths, one of England’s top docs said today.
Deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference that phase one will see all those over the age of 50, and people who are clinically vulnerable, get the vaccine.
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Independent experts today confirmed care home residents, their carers, the over 80s and frontline NHS and social care workers will be immunised first.
The priority list then runs in order of age, and takes into consideration those with underlying health issues.
Prof Van-Tam said: “The JCVI priority list phase one, which takes us down to people 50 years of age and over and under 50 if you’re in an at-risk group, taken together it’s not an accident that they take out – with a very effective vaccine and high uptake – 99 per cent of Covid-related mortality, deaths.”
First jab gets green light
It comes as the UK became the first country in the world to give the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which is 95 per cent effective, the green light to be rolled out from next week.
Other front runners including the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna jabs are still being assessed by the regulators, who said today they will work over Christmas in the hope of approving more vaccines.
Both experts and politicians have hailed the “historic moment”, just ten months after Sars-CoV-2 emerged earlier this year, but warned that the country “can’t lower our guard yet”.
Matt Hancock said the approval marks a “new chapter in our fight against the virus”, while Boris Johnson said it will help us “reclaim our lives”.
Speaking in the commons, the Health Secretary told MPs: “Even since the pandemic hit our shores almost a year ago we have known a vaccine would be critical to set us free.
“It’s no longer a case of if there’s going to be a vaccine, it’s when.
“In our battle against the virus, help is on its way.
“Today is a triumph for all those who believe in science, a triumph for ingenuity, a triumph for humanity.”
It comes as:
First in line
Hours after the news Pfizer’s jab was safe to be rolled out, experts confirmed who will get the first doses.
Mr Hancock said we can expect 800,000 doses in the UK by next week, but refused to say how many are likely to reach our shores by the end of the year.
The Department of Health today stated that “tens of thousands” of people will receive the “high quality vaccine” from next week.
The doses will be shipped over from Belgium in the coming days, and will be here by the weekend, Pfizer bosses confirmed today.
In total the UK has ordered 40million doses, enough to give 20million Brits the required two doses, 21 days apart.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) confirmed at a Downing Street press conference earlier today that roll out would be prioritised by age.
He said: “Prioritisation was based on the risk of dying from Covid-19 and in order to protect the most vulnerable we have prioritised them first.
“By protecting the NHS we also protect lives.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam today hailed the development and said supply would soon be rolled out to the NHS.
Covid Vaccine: Who, When and How?
Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, today said the following about the new Covid vaccine:
Who? “The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have clearly recommended NHS should make sure those first offered are those at highest risk. In practice, that means starting with the over 80s, as well as people in care homes as well as staff looking after them.
When? “In the new year, we will be extending that to many more people across the country. Although we are the first health service in the world to get vaccinating supplies from the manufacturer are phased.
“The bulk of this vaccination program will take place in the period January through to March or April for the at risk members of the population. Since you need two jabs… typically 21 days apart… that means we’ve got to reserve the second dose for those getting the first dose in December.”
How? The NHS chief said the vaccine “is logistically complicated”.
He said: “We have to move it around the country in a carefully controlled way. It also comes in packs of 975 people’s doses. You can’t at this point just distribute it to every individual GP or pharmacy. Next week 50 hospital hubs across England will start offering the vaccine to over 80s, carehome staff and those identified by GVI.
“The hospital will get in touch with you, you don’t need to do anything yourself.”
He added that the NHS intends for vaccination centres to rollout the jab as more become available in the months to come.
Prof Van Tam, who recently had to self-isolate due to a household member coming into contact with someone with the virus, said in time, eligible Brits would be invited to have the jab.
He added: “I urge you to be ready, and to help make the process as smooth as possible. For now, stay patient, and keep yourselves safe by continuing to follow the rules and maintaining social distancing.”
It means care home residents, staff and their carers will be front of the queue, followed by those over 80 and frontline NHS and social care staff.
The NHS and Army are on standby to begin the “unprecedented” mass vaccination programme, on a scale not seen before in this country.
Special vaccination centres will be set up across the UK, including the Nightingale hospital in London and Epsom Racecourse, while fifty hospitals are gearing up to immunise their staff.
Due to the fact the Pfizer jab has to be stored at -70C, it is likely NHS workers will be among those who get the first doses.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference Prof Munir Pirmohamed said: “We are in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic and I think this is a historic moment.
“The UK is now one step closer to providing a safe and effective vaccine to help in the fight against Covid-19, a virus that has affected each and every one of us in some way. This will help to save lives.”
After the most vulnerable people have received the vaccine the over 60s will receive the jab.
This will be followed by the over-55s and over-50s before the rest of the population is able to be vaccinated.
The government has not yet revealed when the first jabs will be rolled out but it was previously reported that the NHS is getting ready to start it’s mass vaccination programme.
Patients need two doses 21 days apart for protection against Covid-19, meaning not enough shots have yet been secured for the entire UK population.
People will be protected from the virus seven days after their second dose.
It’s not clear how long immunisation lasts, with the possibility of booster jabs needed and this will be studied over time.
The green light from the MHRA means that Britain will be ahead of the US in receiving the jab even though it was developed using US government funding.
WHO ARE THE AT-RISK GROUPS?
The elderly, NHS staff and other at-risk groups will take priority when it comes to a Covid jab.
People over 18 with the following conditions are considered to be in ‘at-risk’ groups:
- chronic respiratory disease like severe asthma, COPD and cystic fibrosis
- chronic heart disease and vascular disease
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease
- chronic neurological disease like cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, dementia, motor neurone disease
- type 1 diabetes
- type 2 diabetes requiring insulin or oral medication, diet-controlled diabetes
- immunosuppression – those undergoing chemo, transplant patients, people taking certain drugs that suppress the immune system
- asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen
- morbid obesity – those with a body mass index of over 40
- severe mental illness
- adult carers
- close relatives or carers of immunocompromised adults
- younger adults in long-stay nursing homes and residential care settings
The chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Dr June Raine this morning chaired a Downing Street briefing on the vaccine.
Dr Raine said top standards had been maintained during production and testing of the vaccine.
“That doesn’t mean that any corners have been cut, none at all.”
She added that the public would be invited to take part in an active monitoring programme which would see people receive letters to join.
Top experts have worked “round the clock, carefully, methodically poring over tables and analyses and graphs on every single piece of data” and Dr Raine said that thousands of pages of data have been examined.
The experts did however admit that there would have to be “some flexibility” in terms of who gets the vaccine.
A report published by the JCVI stated that it needed to protect those most at risk of “morbidity and mortality”.
The experts stressed that it would not matter what tier a person was in when it comes to who the vaccine is distributed to.
VACCINE GUIDANCE FOR KIDS
The regulatory bodies have stated that the vaccine will be given to care home residents and staff as a priority – followed by the elderly and at-risk groups.
The JCVI have stated that children won’t be offered the jab yet.
It’s guidance states: “Following infection, almost all children will have asymptomatic infection or mild disease.
“There are very limited data on vaccination in adolescents, with no data on vaccination in younger children, at this time.
“The Committee advises that only those children at very high risk of exposure and serious outcomes, such as older children with severe neuro-disabilities that require residential care, should be offered vaccination.”
Clinicians have been urged to discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with parents – who in turn should be informed of the safety data for the vaccine in kids over the age of 16.
The body added: “More detail on vaccination in children is set out in the Green Book – Immunisation Against Infectious Disease.”
Further research is still being carried out to see how the vaccine works in pregnant women and in children.
Prof Shen Lim said that the JCVI had considered the safety data on the jab.
“We’re pleased to say that it supports vaccinating those most at-risk of death from Covid-19 – starting with older people in care homes and those aged 80 years and above.
“This priority reflects the available data on those most at-risk of serious disease and death from Covid-19 infection. “
He added: “Whether or not the vaccine can be delivered to care homes is a valid point and there will be some flexibility.
“Whether that’s doable is dependent on deployment and implementation.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also hailed the development today but warned that “it isn’t the end of the struggle”.
Speaking in the House of Commons he said the protection of vaccines will allow Britons to “reclaim our lives” and get the economy moving.
He said: “I think it is very important at this stage for us all to recognise that this is unquestionably good news. It’s very, very good news.
“It is by no means the end of the story, it is not the end of our national struggle against coronavirus and that is why it’s very important that the package of moderate but tough measures that the House voted for last night, the tiering system, is followed across the country because that’s how we will continue to beat the virus.”
Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, tweeted: “It will take until spring until the vulnerable population who wish to are fully vaccinated. We can’t lower our guard yet.”
‘BIG STEP FORWARD’
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at Public Health England (PHE, said the recommendations from the JCVI and MHRA provide confidence that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has met the “very high standards needed to roll out the vaccine”.
She added: “This is a big step forward in tackling the virus.
“This means it can be delivered to those most at-risk, to help prevent as many deaths from Covid-19 as possible.
“Once deployed, PHE will work alongside the MHRA to keep the safety and efficacy of the vaccine under constant review.”
The JCVI states that age is the biggest risk when it comes to the coronavirus.
A report published by the group states that models show that the vaccine is safe on older adults.
The report also notes that care home residents have been “disproportionally affected” by Covid-19.
This is due to the fact that they are at a higher risk of being exposed to infection.
“The Committee’s advice is that this group should be the highest priority for vaccination. Vaccination of residents and staff at the same time is considered to be a highly efficient strategy within a mass vaccination programme with the greatest potential impact”, the report adds.
ARE THERE OTHER EFFECTIVE VACCINES?
A number of vaccines are currently being tested – with good results
Recent data from the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccine trials suggests their candidates also have high efficacy, just like the Pfizer jab.
Oxford data indicates the vaccine has 62 per cent efficacy when one full dose is given followed by another full dose.
However, when people were given a half dose followed by a full dose at least a month later, its efficacy rose to 90 per cent.
The combined analysis from both dosing regimes resulted in an average efficacy of 70.4 per cent.
Final results from the trials of Moderna’s vaccine suggest it has 94.1 per cent efficacy, and 100 per cent efficacy against severe Covid-19.
Nobody who was vaccinated with the vaccine known as mRNA-1273 developed severe coronavirus.
The UK has secured access to 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, which is almost enough for most of the population.
It also belatedly struck a deals for seven million doses of the jab on offer from Moderna in the US.
All vaccines undergo rigorous testing and have oversight from experienced regulators.
The UK has secured access to:
– 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine
– 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine
– Some 30 million doses from Janssen
– 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – the first agreement the firms signed with any government
– 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 jab on offer from Moderna in the US.
‘HELP IS ON ITS WAY’
He said today: “From Easter onwards, things are going to be better and we’re going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy.”
Mr Hancock tweeted earlier this morning: “Help is on its way.
“The MHRA has formally authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19.
“The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week.
“The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply.”
Hospitals are now preparing their staff to start receiving the vaccine from Monday. An army of helpers will then issue the jab to those most in need.
It has to be stored at -70C and can only be thawed in batches of 1,000 before immunisation.
The vaccine has to be administered in two shots and the UK has 800,000 doses of the jab – enough for 400,000 people available from next week.
In total the UK has ordered 40 million doses of the jab, with 10 million set to be available at the end of the month.