NHS Must Be Ready To Deploy Coronavirus Vaccine From Early December, Matt Hancock Says
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the NHS must be ready to deploy a COVID-19 vaccine from early December.
News emerged yesterday, November 9, of Pfizer/BioNTech’s ‘90% effective’ coronavirus vaccine. While still in its final stages of testing, the UK has placed an order of 30 million doses, enough for 15 million people.
Hancock described the results of the trials as ‘very promising’, and while urging there’s still a number of steps to go until it can be fully rolled out, he’s asked the NHS to be prepared next month.
He told Sky News, ‘I have asked [the NHS] to be ready from the start of December. Of course, there are many hurdles that still need to be gone over and we haven’t seen the full safety data, and obviously that is critical.’
Hancock continued, ‘We won’t deploy a vaccine unless we can be confident in its clinical safety, but we also do need to be ready should a vaccine be licensed and get through all those hurdles and be ready to roll it out.’
The NHS will also be supported by the country’s Armed Forces. However, while saying the vaccine is ‘one step of many we need to get out of this and to tackle this pandemic once and for all’, Hancock added, ‘The critical thing is that we all keep our resolve on the measures that are in place now.’
Those in vulnerable categories, such as the elderly, will be first in line for the vaccine, as well as NHS staff and care home workers and residents. There are concerns regarding the storage of the doses, which need to be kept at temperatures of -80°C.
While a member of SAGE said ‘with some confidence’ we should see life returning to normal by next spring, Hancock didn’t echo the same level of optimism.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has also asked GP surgeries to be prepared for ‘rapid delivery’ of vaccines once approved by regulators, with plans for a new ‘directed enhanced service’ between 8.00am to 8.00pm Monday to Sunday.
The vaccine will require two separate doses, either 21 or 28 days apart according to the outlet. There’s also prospective plans for large vaccination centres similar to larger testing sites, as well as ‘roving teams’ of vaccine nurses for those in need.
In a statement, the BMA said, ‘Vaccine availability will be limited to begin with, meaning only small numbers of vaccines may be given in December with most vaccinations taking place in early 2021.’
It added, ‘Working together, practices will need to be prepared to offer vaccinations seven days a week so that the vaccine is delivered within its short shelf-life and so patients receive it as soon as possible.’
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