The executive director of NHS England said “of course there is a supply shortage” for coronavirus vaccines.
Sir Simon Stevens told the Health and Social Committee: “If there were unlimited vaccines, you wouldn’t see what the European Commission said yesterday, you wouldn’t see Italy trying to sue any of the manufacturers, you wouldn’t see Germany in the turmoil as it is today.
“Of course there is a supply shortage and we have done very well in this country to get the supply that is available to us. The question is how we can best use it.”
Sir Simon told the Health and Welfare Committee, “We currently use the vaccine almost every week as soon as we receive it, as we get it through safety testing, batch testing and distribution to the NHS and then ship it across the country.”
Teachers, police and people with learning difficulties must be considered for the next round of Covid-19 vaccinations, said Sir Simon.
He said, “Our current suggestion that once we have vaccinated everyone over the age of 70 and who are clinically extremely at risk, the next group of people will be people in their 60s and 50s, but there will also be a legitimate discussion of mine It is believed that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization needs to consider whether or not there are certain other groups that should receive this priority.
“People with learning disabilities and autism, certain key public workers, teachers and the police must be considered in this prioritization decision after February 15th.”
Sir Simon said reducing the number of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients was not “the only consideration” policymakers would consider when setting the priority list for vaccination.
“Basically, the most important thing is to reduce the overall rate of infection. This is not primarily about putting pressure on the NHS, but primarily about reducing the preventable death rate,” he added.
Vaccinating people aged 65 and over has a “major impact” on the use of hospital beds.
Sir Simon said, “About a quarter of hospital admissions for Covid are for those under the age of 55 and about half of inpatient bed days for coronavirus patients are for those under 65.”
He said deaths were “highly concentrated” in the older age groups, including those over 70, those at high clinical risk and their health and social care workers.
Sir Simon added, “Regardless, an estimated 88% of all deaths to date have been caused.
“But when you look at the use of hospital resources, it’s not quite as focused on the top of the pyramid or risk, shall we say.”
He added, “When you vaccinate 65, 70, 75 people, you have a huge impact on the use of the hospital bed, not just the preventable deaths.”
Sir Simon said there will be a point at which risk groups will be notified that they can apply for a vaccination if they haven’t already had one.
He told the Health and Welfare Committee: “As we move through each consecutive cohort there will be a moment when we will say, ‘If you have not been contacted, please report yourself.”
“At the moment, because we were asked to lower the pyramid of risk, the NHS is asking people to book an appointment. So we’re saying ‘wait for us to contact you’, not ‘you call your practice’.
“But when we get to the end of each cohort, we will be very clear:” If you fall into this category and have not yet been vaccinated, here is how you can come up and be vaccinated. “
Sir Simon described the current scenario with coronavirus as “a very serious situation with all possible consequences, not only for patients and families with coronavirus but also for other services”.
He told the Health and Welfare Committee, “Everyone is given critical care and ventilators that clinicians believe would benefit, but we shouldn’t cover up the fact that it is obviously extremely stressful on the system.”
“We have approximately 3,700 core intensive care beds across the NHS in England and as a result of the prep work hospitals have done over the summer and fall, we have surge beds and facilities, of which we now have approximately 2,170 patients in critical care need. “
He added, “In other words, more than 50% of critical care beds are on top of core capacity, and this obviously requires flexible workforce levels and the workforce is under tremendous pressure to provide these services.”
According to Sir Simon, there are currently almost 33,000 Covid-positive patients in hospitals across the country.
He told the Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday that the number had remained roughly at this level over the past fourteen days and had represented a “very strong acceleration” since Christmas, when around 18,000 coronavirus patients were in hospital.
Sir Simon said: “Although the new admissions are gradually decreasing slightly, the slightly decreasing beds in London are being offset by increases in the Midlands.
“Overall, we are on a plateau with around 33,000 Covid-positive inpatients, which is an incredibly high number and very, very serious.
“If you look at the positions in intensive care, we again have more than 4,000 patients in intensive care, and about three quarters of our intensive care are there for Covid reasons.”