Shipments of the coronavirus vaccine developed by US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech were delivered to the UK in super-cold containers on Sunday, two days before it is made public in an immunization program that is being closely watched. all over the world.
About 800,000 doses of the vaccine were expected to be in place by the start of the immunization program on Tuesday, a day that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called “V Day,” a nod to victories in World War II.
“Knowing that they are here, and that we are among the first in the country to receive the vaccine and therefore the first in the world, is simply amazing,” Louise Coughlan, Deputy Chief Pharmacist at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, close From london. , said.
“I’m very proud,” she said after the trust, which runs Croydon University Hospital, received the vaccine.
Governments and health agencies around the world will be monitoring the British vaccination program, which will take months, to note its successes and failures and adjust their own plans accordingly. The United States expects to begin vaccinations later this month. British regulatory authorities are also examining data on vaccines from the American biotech company Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford University.
Russia on Saturday began vaccinating thousands of doctors, teachers and others at dozens of centers in Moscow with its Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which was approved over the summer after being tested in just a few dozen people.
The excitement in Britain, which has the highest number of virus-related deaths in Europe at over 61,000, was palpable.
“Despite the enormous complexities, hospitals will begin the first phase of the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday,” said Professor Stephen Powis, England’s NHS National Medical Director.
Patients 80 years of age and older who already attend hospitals as outpatients and those who are discharged after a hospital stay will be among the first to receive the injection. Hospitals will also begin inviting more than 80 people to get the vaccine and will work with nursing homes to reserve staff for vaccination clinics. Any unaccepted appointments will be offered to those healthcare workers deemed to be at increased risk for COVID-19. Everyone who is vaccinated will need a booster dose 21 days later.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on speculation that 94-year-old Queen Elizabeth II and her 99-year-old husband, Prince Philip, will soon be vaccinated and then make it public, a move that could reassure anyone who are nervous about getting a vaccine.
“Our aim is to fully protect all members of the population, Your Majesty of course, too,” Dr June Raine, executive director of Britain’s Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency, told the BBC. the vaccine.
The UK has obtained 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which can cover 20 million people. Since the British government will only immunize people over the age of 16, around 55 million people in the UK will be eligible. In all, Britain has purchased 357 million doses of seven candidate vaccines, including 100 million of the much cheaper Oxford vaccine, which has a lower efficacy rate than Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Now that the first batch of the vaccine has arrived from Pfizer’s manufacturing plant in Belgium, a company specializing in medical logistics is conducting checks to ensure that there has been no damage in transit. This can take up to a day.
Each box containing the vaccines, which includes five packs of 975 doses, will need to be opened and unpacked manually at specially licensed sites. After that, the vaccines will be available to hospitals.
Delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is complicated because it must be stored in very cold temperatures – around minus 70 degrees Celsius. Fortunately, the vaccine is stable at normal refrigerator temperatures, between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, for a few days, which means it can be stored locally. After thawing the vaccine, which takes a few hours, additional time is required to prepare it for injection.
Public Health England has secured 58 special Twin Guard Ultra Low Temperature Freezers that provide sufficient storage for approximately five million doses. The refrigerators, which are not portable, each contain around 86,000 doses.
There are plans for vaccination centers to treat large numbers of patients in sports areas and conference centers and for local pharmacies to offer jabs as they do with annual flu shots.
Although nursing home residents top the priority list given to the British government by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, they will not receive vaccinations immediately, as 975-dose vaccine packages cannot yet be divided, which makes it very difficult. deliver vaccines to individual nursing homes.
The NHS hopes that authorities will soon approve a safe way to divide the dose packs so that the injections can reach nursing homes during December.
During the first phase of the immunization program, Great Britain has created nine separate groups on its priority list down to those aged 50 and over. Overall, he expects that up to 99 percent of those most at risk of dying from COVID 19 have been immunized during the first phase.