After months of painstaking science, development, clinical trials and immense anticipation, vaccination has begun in Britain with two vaccine candidates – and one further approved today (08.01.2021) of the Moderna vaccine. Touted as the ‘only way out of the pandemic’, at the time of writing, the UK had vaccinated 1.1 million people, the majority of which are in the highest category of risk, and their carers/hospital staff. An unprecedented chain of command has been setup with help from freight, the military as well as GP surgeries, pharmacies and hospitals around the country. The United Kingdom currently has two widely available vaccines– the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine which is produced in the UK and the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine produced in Puurs, Belgium. With the announcement of the production of the Moderna vaccine, this third vaccine will likely come online a bit later in the year as the UK government decided to await the results of the clinical trials before purchase.
Much has been made of the ‘flexibility’ in ordering different vaccines, both in terms of efficacy and in the safety profiles that come with them. The first available vaccine in the UK, and the one most commonly used thus far in the program is the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine (hereby known as the Pfizer vaccine). This vaccine, however, has a very delicate chain of cold supply which must be adhered to in order to retain the integrity of the vaccine bolus, something which has hindered wider rollout thus far. The uptick of the Oxford vaccine coming online, though, is set to broaden the availability of vaccine to the general population as this vaccine is suited to easier storage and without the temperature/cold chain requirements, the same as other common vaccines.
The NHS and Government have written a list of vaccine priority, which include groups in the following order;
The general public will be called for vaccination and then attend in a variety of settings, including local GP practices and community pharmacies, hospitals and mass vaccination facilities. A staggering number of over 1000 GP sites, 200 community pharmacies, 223 hospital hubs and 7 mass vaccination sites are due to come online by next week. 80,000 people have been trained in intra-muscular vaccination and the military are being briefed to set up rapid-vaccination task forces to ensure even greater coverage. This itself is an enormous logistical challenge, thus the military involvement – military officers are used to providing supplies and aid to those in near-unreachable locations in challenging conditions.
The government is throwing everything at the vaccine rollout as the aforementioned ‘only way out of the pandemic’. Although the recent strains of coronavirus seem to have not avoided the ‘net’ of the vaccines we have currently, it is of utmost important that a majority of the population are vaccinated to prevent further cases for mutation. Much has been made of the government’s decision to change the Pfizer vaccine dose window to 12 weeks, yet it is too early to really understand the implications of this. With lofty targets to vaccinate the first 4 priority groups by February, it remains to be seen how far the vaccination effort can go.