Covid vaccine doses to arrive in UK within HOURS – as 1st Pfizer jab will be given on Monday

THE Covid vaccine will arrive in the UK in "hours, not days", according to England's deputy chief medical officer.

Jonathan Van-Tam confirmed the Pfizer jab will arrive on British soil “very shortly”, after it was approved for use yesterday.

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Professor Van-Tam told the BBC: “Now, there is a technical issue related to the Pfizer vaccine that we currently expect to receive very, very shortly in the UK, and I do mean hours, not days.”

The technical issue he was referring to was the fact the virus must be stored at -70C, and, once it comes out to defrost, it has to be stored at 2C to 8C, but only for five days.

In total 32 NHS trusts are standing by to roll out the Pfizer Covid vaccine from next week, as early as Monday.

They have been chosen because they have super-cold freezers that are able to store the vaccines at -70C.

The trusts will act as "hubs" which will offer the jabs to people in their area in order of priority, as well helping with co-ordinating distribution.

A London hospital is expected to be the first to give out a Covid-19 vaccine at 7am on Monday morning, The Telegraph reported.

The unnamed hospital is one of seven in the capital to receive batches of the Pfizer jab over the weekend, after it was approved by regulators yesterday.

It could be Croydon University Hospital, Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Trust, Kings College, Princess Royal University Hospital, Royal Free, St George's University Hospitals or University College Hospitals.

Vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said: The NHS has decades of experience in delivering highly successful vaccination programmes and has put in an enormous amount of work to get ready to roll out a Covid-19 vaccine to those most in need as quickly as possible.

“Once extensive quality checks have taken place, it can be transported to vaccination sites across the UK and carefully unpacked ready for vaccinations to begin this month, with large-scale vaccination happening in the new year.”


Why is the Pfizer jab so difficult to deploy?

FREEZING TEMPERATURES: The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at an ultra low temperature of between minus 70C and minus 80C. Usually jabs can be stored at fridge temperatures of around 4C.

However, Ben Osborn, Pfizer’s UK country manager, said that once the vaccine reaches the point of deployment, it can be stored for five days under normal refrigerated conditions of between 2C to 8C.

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was a “complex product with a very fragile cold chain”.

The jabs must be packaged with dry ice and placed in a special transport box provided by Pfizer. It's the size of a suitcase and can hold 5,000 doses.

The vaccines can stay in these boxes for 30 days, but only if the dry ice is topped up.

IT CAN'T BE MOVED TOO MUCH: Because of it's preference for freezing temperatures, the vaccine can only be moved a few times. Professor Van-Tam said: "It's not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back in multiple times. It’s really tricky to handle.”

BioNTech says that during transit, the vaccine can only be kept at between 2C and 8C for six hours. After this point they could perish, which makes getting the vaccines out to care homes and GP surgeries time sensitive.

IT COMES IN BATCHES OF 1,000:The vaccines, once taken out of the freezer, can only be thawed in batches of 1,000. Officials have to work out how to split the huge batch and how to transport them so none of the vials go to waste.

Only when regulators approve the “splitting” of the packs will it be distributed to care homes, which may only have a few dozen residents.

Once the vaccine arrives in the UK from Pfizer’s plant in Belgium, batches will be checked at a central depot to ensure their quality.

Public Health England (PHE) will process orders placed by the NHS for next-day delivery to hospital hubs around the UK, PA news agency reported.

NHS boss Sir Simon Stevens has said the service is “ten out of ten” ready to roll out the “biggest vaccination campaign in our history”.

But he said the approval needs to be “tempered with realism", because it would take "months, not weeks" to get the jab in people's arms.

He set out more detail about the rollout of the newly-approved vaccine during a Downing Street press briefing.

The phased-roll out of the jab was given in key points:

  1. NEXT WEEK: From next week, 53 hospital hubs will start giving out vaccines to the over-80s, care home staff and others identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) who may already have a hospital appointment coming up.
  2. NEXT FEW WEEKS: That will be followed in subsequent weeks by GP practices, growing to over 1,000 across England. GPs will get in touch with at-risk patients offering them to come in and get their jab.
  3. NEW YEAR: Sir Simon said that "as even more vaccine becomes available" at the start of 2021, the NHS would be able to "switch on" mass vaccination centres, which would immunise thousands of people a week. Pharmacies will probably start giving the jabs out from January.
  4. THROUGH SPRING: The bulk of the programme for the at-risk population is likely to take place between January and April.

Care home residents, and their carers, were supposed to be prioritised for the vaccine.

But because of the way the vaccine is distributed it makes delivery a logistical nightmare, and care homes in Wales have been told they will need to wait.

The vaccines, once taken out of the freezer, can only be thawed in batches of 1,000. But each care home looks after a maximum of several hundred residents, sometimes below 100.

And once they are thawed, it they can only be stored at fridge temperatures for five days.

Officials have to work out how to split the huge batch and how to transport them so none of the vials go to waste.

Only when regulators approve the “splitting” of the packs will it be distributed to care homes, Sir Simon admitted.

The Midlands has the most hospital hubs that will receive the vaccine, at 13. Countess of Chester Hospital, Northampton General Hospital and Walsall Healthcare are among those.

Eight hospitals in the North West are preparing to dish out the vaccine, one being Liverpool Royal Hospital.

Eight hospitals are in each of the South East and South West, and seven each in the East of England and London.

One hospital is in the Yorkshire region – United Lincolnshire Hospitals – and one is in the North East – The Newcastle Upon Type Hospitals.

Northern regions of England have been the hardest hit by the virus, with high R rates forcing huge areas into severe restrictions for months.

But there have been concerns for soaring infection rates in the South of England, while cases are declining faster in the North.

A number of the hospitals with the capacity to store the vaccines currently have the most Covid-19 patients. These include Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, University Hospitals Birmingham and Leeds Teaching Hospital.

The hospitals that will receive the vaccine first

  1. Blackpool Teaching Hospitals: North West
  2. Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals: South East
  3. Cambridge University Hospitals: East England
  4. Chesterfield Royal Hospital: Midlands
  5. Countess of Chester Hospital: Midlands
  6. Croydon University Hospital: London
  7. Dartford and Gravesham Hospitals: South East
  8. Dorset County Hospitals: South West
  9. East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals: East England
  10. East Kent Hospitals: South East
  11. East Suffolk and North Essex Hospitals: East England
  12. Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust: South East
  13. Gloucestershire Hospitals: South West
  14. Great Western Hospitals: South West
  15. Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Trust: London
  16. James Paget University Hospitals: East England
  17. Kings College Hospital: London
  18. Princess Royal University Hospital, Kings: London
  19. Lancashire Teaching Hospital: North West
  20. Leeds Teaching Hospital: North West
  21. Leicester Partnership NHS Trust: East Midlands
  22. Liverpool University Hospitals: North West
  23. Medway NHS Foundation Trust: South East
  24. Mid and South Essex Hospitals: East England
  25. Milton Keynes University Hospital : South East
  26. Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital: East England
  27. Northampton General Hospital: East Midlands
  28. North Bristol NHS Foundation Trust: South West
  29. North West Anglia Foundation Trust: East Midlands
  30. Nottingham University Hospitals: Midlands
  31. Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust: South East
  32. Portsmouth Hospital University: South West
  33. Royal Cornwall Hospitals: South West
  34. Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust: London
  35. Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust: North West
  36. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals: North West
  37. Sherwood Forest Hospitals: Midlands
  38. Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust: West Midlands
  39. Stockport NHS Foundation Trust: North West
  40. St George's University Hospitals: London
  41. The Newcastle Upon Type Hospitals: North East
  42. University College Hospitals: London
  43. University Hospitals Birmingham: Midlands
  44. University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire: West Midlands
  45. University Hospitals Derby Burton: Midlands
  46. University Hospitals of North Midlands
  47. University Hospitals Plymouth: South West
  48. United Lincolnshire Hospitals: Yorkshire
  49. Walsall Healthcare: Midlands
  50. West Hertfordshire Hospitals: South East
  51. Wirral University Teaching Hospital: North West
  52. Worcestershire Acute Hospitals: West Midlands
  53. Yeovil District Hospital: South West

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said the NHS will contact people who can get their jab when it is ready.

But it would take until March or April for the entire at-risk population to be vaccinated.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the NHS would now embark on the the “biggest programme of mass vaccination in the history of the UK” from next week.

He said from No 10: “It will inevitably take some months before all the most vulnerable are protected – long, cold months.

“So it’s all the more vital that as we celebrate this scientific achievement we are not carried away with over-optimism or fall into the naive belief that the struggle is over."

WHO IS FIRST IN LINE?

It was announced the jab – which is 95 per cent effective – has been backed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) this morning.

Hours after the news Pfizer's jab was safe to be rolled out, experts confirmed who will get the first doses.

It's based on who most needs the vaccination due to their risk of death or spreading the virus.

Care home residents, their carers and the over 80s are at the top of the list to get the first doses.

The jab will then be rolled out by age, with those over 80 years old first ine line, and also to those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable, including people with obesity.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, of the JCVI, told the No 10 briefing yesterday morning he hoped that in the first phase of the vaccine programme 99% of the most clinically vulnerable would be covered.

He added: “This is the start of a programme and not the end of a programme."

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning: "This will start small and ramp up. The vast majority of vaccines we expect to be in the new year.

"We are expecting a matter of millions of doses for the whole of the UK by the end of this year."

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.

Mr Hancock said we can expect 800,000 doses in the UK by next week.

These have already left Pfizer's plant in Belgium bound for the UK today.

"Several million" doses will arrive by the end of this year. But Mr Hancock refused to give an exact figure.

A WORLD FIRST

The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply, and has beaten the EU and US.

Just days ago, it was announced that the drug was set to get the green light for use – and medics were told to prepare for approval in early December.

Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla described the MHRA announcement as an “historic moment”.

He said: “Today’s Emergency Use Authorization in the U.K. marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19."

BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin said on NBC news: “It's a historic day. It's indeed the beginning of the end of the pandemic.”

 

Matt Hancock, said Health Secretary said the approval marks a "new chapter in our fight against the virus", while the PM said it will help us "reclaim our lives".

Speaking in the commons yesterday, 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."

The Prime Minister hailed the "fantastic" vaccine news which will allow us to "reclaim our lives".

At the Downing Street Briefing on Wednesday evening, Mr Johnson said scientists had performed “biological jiu jitsu” to turn the virus on itself.

Despite warning against over-optimism, Mr Johnson said it was now “sure and certain” that life could start returning to normal in 2021.

A combination of community testing, vaccines and social distancing measures were still necessary, he said.

Ministers are also primed to launch a nationwide campaign across TV and radio highlighting the benefits of vaccination as early as next week.

Health bosses are gambling the Oxford-developed AstraZeneca jab, which can be stored in a normal fridge, will be approved in a matter of days.

Officials expect it will form the backbone of mass community immunisation, with 19million doses available by the end of the year.

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