Coronavirus vaccine rollouts could begin in hospitals in just 10 days, with NHS staff expected to be at the top of the queue.
Hospitals in England could expect to receive their first shipments of a Pfizer / BioNTech-made vaccine as early as Monday, December 7th, with regulatory approval expected within days, according to NHS chiefs.
NHS England should expect to receive vaccine stocks on December 7th, 8th or 9th, sources in several hospitals across the country say Guardian Reports.
Initially, only NHS staff are said to receive the push, with nursing home residents and those over 80s having to wait.
This is despite the fact that these two groups are listed by the government as the top priority for Covid immunization as they are at greatest risk of dying from the disease.
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The heads of the care sector reacted angrily, warning that the move would be viewed as “treason”.
Guidelines issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) in September, the government advisors who decide which groups have priority said elderly people in nursing homes and their staff should be high on the list.
All over 80s and all those working in health and social services would have the second priority. Public Health England on Friday reiterated the priority list in the guidelines for the NHS.
But the nature of the Pfizer vaccine seems to have forced a rethinking of who gets it first.
Due to its composition, experts believe that it should only be moved a limited number of times and therefore cannot be easily transported to nursing homes and elderly people’s homes by medical personnel such as general practitioners.
NHS officials believe it can be moved more than four times to become unstable and ineffective.
By the time it reaches the UK hospitals, it will have been relocated twice: from the Pfizer manufacturing plant in Belgium to the warehouse centers in the UK, and from those centers to the hospitals where it can be managed.
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A senior hospital director told the Guardian, “We should expect the vaccine on December 7th and plan to start vaccinating our staff all week.” However, it is the Pfizer vaccine that we are receiving. Therefore, once we receive it, it cannot be moved and we have to use it within five days as this is its shelf life.
“The original plan was to build nursing homes first. Once we have received the vaccine, it can no longer be used in the community, so at least initially only NHS staff can get it. “
NHS England’s expectation for the first shipments of Pfizer’s products to hit hospitals on and after December 7th depends on the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) clearing it in a timely manner.
The regulator has been evaluating the vaccine for more than a week, since a formal request from Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
However, there is a strong belief at the top of the NHS that there will be a green light next week.
An executive at another hospital said: “The government is officially expected to follow the advice of the JCVI.
“But in practice, the NHS will vaccinate NHS staff with the Pfizer vaccine and it will do so fairly quickly because of its short shelf life. So it will be NHS staff who will get it first.”
Last week, NHS trusts urged employees to urgently get their winter flu vaccination before the end of November so they can get the Covid vaccine. The instructions say that there should be a gap of several weeks between them.
Nursing home residents and those over 80 are increasingly having to wait to be vaccinated with the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, which the government referred to the MHRA on Friday.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, it doesn’t need to be frozen at -70 ° C to -80 ° C and can be stored in regular refrigerators and easily moved around by general practitioners, nurses, and health visitors who shove in places like nursing homes.
An NHS official said the differences in the composition and potential availability of Pfizer and Oxford vaccines meant that the initial introduction could be a “stop-start,” leaving a gap of weeks or even months between the front lines and health workers other priority groups should be vaccinated.
Martin Green, managing director of Care England, the UK’s largest provider of nursing homes, said the decision was “another case of theirs [the government] Making announcements without being able to fulfill them ”.
“We had a commitment that nursing home residents would come first,” he said. “The reason for this is that they are the most susceptible to death from the virus. This obligation must be adhered to. “
He said the vaccine could be sent directly to nursing homes, especially nursing homes with trained medical staff on-site.
“They knew this was the vaccine and they knew it required little exercise. Then why did they make the announcement that it was nursing home staff and residents first?”