Nurses at the Royal Free Hospital in London simulate administering the Pfizer vaccine to aid in staff training ahead of the rollout on December 5, 2020 in London, England.
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Britain is preparing to give the first Covid-19 vaccines to the public on Tuesday. This makes the UK one of the first countries in the world to launch a coronavirus vaccine.
The first doses of Pfizer BioNTech shots, approved as an emergency by the UK Medicines Agency last week, will be given out to health workers, nursing home workers and those over 80 on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the rollout as “one of the greatest civil logistical efforts” Britain has ever faced. It will be the largest vaccination campaign in the country that has ever taken place.
British newspapers hailed it on Monday as “V Day” and “Vaxit” (a piece about “Brexit” – the other big news in the UK this week). In the meantime, the best health authorities in the country are preparing the public for the vaccination campaign. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday: “This coming week will be a historic moment when we start vaccinating against Covid-19.”
Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of NHS England, said: “Despite the enormous complexity, hospitals will launch the first phase of the largest vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday. The first batch of vaccine deliveries will land in hospitals on standby by Monday. “
‘I am so proud’
The rollout will take place at a crucial point in time for the country. The UK has the third highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe after France and Italy, with over 1.7 million confirmed infections and more than 61,000 deaths, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.
In the UK, 50 hospitals have been selected as vaccine hubs, which will serve as the primary location for vaccination delivery. Later, the vaccine will be introduced in community health centers such as doctor’s offices to allow for a more general vaccination program where priority is based on age and clinical needs.
Croydon University Hospital in London was one of the first hospitals to receive batches of the vaccine this weekend.
“It’s actually just amazing,” Louise Coughlin, chief pharmacist at Croydon Health Services, told reporters.
“Of course I can’t hold them in my hands because they are minus 70 degrees, but knowing that you are here and that we are among the first in the country to actually receive the vaccine, so the first in the world are easy incredible. I’m so proud. “
A Croydon Health Services pharmacy technician will take delivery of the first batch of Covid-19 vaccinations at Croydon University Hospital in South London on December 5, 2020.
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The UK has pre-ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer and BioNTechs vaccine, which in late-stage clinical trials have been shown to be 95% effective at preventing Covid infection.
Since it is a two-dose vaccine, the country has bought enough doses to vaccinate 20 million people. Pfizer’s delivery of vaccines will be staggered. The total amount is expected to be delivered by the end of 2021.
The UK has also pre-ordered other Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Moderna, but these have not yet been approved.
From security issues to public trust
Pfizer confirmed to CNBC that the UK will initially receive around 800,000 recordings from its production site in Puurs, Belgium. However, the actual delivery schedule is secret. “For security reasons, we can no longer report how or where it is arriving in the UK,” a company spokesman told CNBC in a statement.
Aside from safety issues, the transportation and storage needs of the vaccine pose additional logistical challenges. The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine can only be agitated four times, must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, and can only be stored at refrigerated temperatures for up to five days after thawing.
Another challenge facing the government is public awareness and participation in the vaccination program in the face of the spread of misinformation about vaccines.
Last week, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the UK’s deputy chief medical officer, warned that a “low intake” of the vaccine could spell continuation of coronavirus restrictions and possible further bans.
“Nobody wants to see lockdowns and the damage they do,” he said during a government press conference. “But if you want this dream to come true as soon as possible (so that life can get back to normal) you must take the vaccine when it is offered to you.”
Rhetoric against vaccinations
Surveys have shown that the UK public is generally supportive of obtaining a Covid vaccine and that it will not be mandatory. However, some are concerned about the rapid pace at which the vaccine has been tested and have received approval from the UK Drugs and Health Products Regulatory Agency.
“The vaccine is great news, but I have concerns about taking it given the short timeframe for testing,” a member of the public told CNBC in London.
“How safe is it? That is the key question. What age group and demographics was it tested on? I would like to see more testing before I take the plunge. I just need to be 100% sure that there is no adverse effect due to that.” The short test duration is not yet known to anyone. “
Protester holds an anti-vaccine placard in east London on December 5, 2020.
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Andre Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at Cass Business School in London, told CNBC on Monday that building public confidence in the vaccine was a “big problem” for governments.
“We know the rhetoric against vaccination is increasing, especially during the Covid boom,” he told CNBC’s street signs, a community that takes the vaccine. “
“But there is a lot of research to suggest that this doesn’t tend to convince the least certain,” he said. “With these people, you have to focus on people they actually know … like a family doctor or a nurse,” added Spicer.
Vaccines can often take many years to develop and get approved, but the devastating spread of the coronavirus pandemic has led scientists to find a way to stop the virus. The front runners in vaccines include those developed by Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, and the companies have reported that their shots in clinical trials were largely effective at preventing coronavirus infection.
The vaccine manufacturers insisted that no corners were cut. The UK regulatory agency was the first in the world to approve Pfizer / BioNTech’s vaccine last week. The European counterpart is expected to announce its conclusions on the Pfizer vaccine later this month and the Moderna vaccine in early January.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is holding a meeting Thursday to discuss an emergency use of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine.