The UK medicines regulator is posed to license one of the coronavirus vaccines for emergency use within days as the Armed Forces and the NHS urgently start preparing for its distribution at around 10 ‘vaccine hubs’.
Military personnel are transforming locations including the mothballed Nightingale hospital at London’s ExCel centre, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, and Ashton Gate football stadium in Bristol into mass vaccine sites.
Northern locations include the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, the Centre for Life science park in Newcastle, and Leicester racecourse.
But UK officials last night admitted that the Government does not yet have any of the jabs in its possession, meaning that vaccination from Covid-19 is unlikely to be extended beyond health and care workers this Christmas.
They told the Times to expect at least a week’s ‘lag’ before vaccination starts, as doses won’t be released to the NHS until after the regulator gives the green light.
The UK has put in orders for early access to 357 million doses of seven coronavirus vaccines – as people who signed up to help others at the start of the pandemic are being drafted in for the mass vaccination effort.
More than 400,000 offered to give their time in the spring as volunteer responders prepared to pick up people’s medicine, drive them home from hospital and provide support over the telephone. But it is now hoped they will help with the Government’s vaccination drive as ‘volunteer vaccinators’ giving the jab to patients.
Speculation grew last night that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority is poised to sign off the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine within days.
The UK medicines regulator is poised to license one of the coronavirus vaccines for emergency use within days, and possibly as soon as today (stock image)
Britain recorded another 13,430 coronavirus infections and 603 deaths in the past 24 hours
Ministers are preparing for a decision as soon as today, which would allow it to be administered as early as next week. NHS England last night published its full contract specification for GP practices delivering Covid jabs.
This stated that they must be able to operate from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week including bank holidays when required for reasons such as needing to use up supplies of a vaccine without wasting any.
A letter sent to all practices suggests that it may be necessary for some staff to vaccinate patients on Christmas Day.
Vaccination sites are expected to be able to deliver at least around 1,000 jabs per week. The contract to vaccinate begins next Tuesday and GPs will be paid £25.16 for every two jabs they administer.
Volunteers without medical training can put themselves forward through the GoodSAM app to give injections working with St John Ambulance. The role description states: ‘Volunteer vaccinators will be trained to deliver a vaccination to a patient. They will also be ready to act if a patient has an adverse reaction.’
People are also being sought to act as vaccination care volunteers. They will help patients get to the right place for their jab and be on hand to provide first aid if anyone becomes unwell. Volunteer patient advocates, the third type of helper, will ‘concentrate on the welfare of patients through their experience’.
Regulations have been changed to allow those who are not healthcare professionals to give the jab. All vaccinations will be supervised by a healthcare professional.
More than 400,000 offered to give their time in the spring as volunteer responders prepared to pick up people’s medicine, drive them home from hospital and provide support over the telephone (stock image)
An NHS spokesman said: ‘Given the likely phasing of vaccine supply from the manufacturers, most Covid vaccination for high risk people is likely to take place between January and Easter, so extra vaccinators are being recruited and trained for that period, and volunteers will have the opportunity to help.’
The GoodSAM app states that volunteer vaccinators must be aged under 70 and over 16, and willing to undertake between six and 12 hours of training, among other criteria mandated by the NHS.
They must be willing to complete at least two shifts of up to eight hours a month.
St John Ambulance has described the vaccination operation as ‘like nothing seen in peacetime’ in this country.
It comes after Michael Gove was forced to deny that Britons will need ‘immunity certificates’ to go to the pub – despite a fellow minister raising that prospect.
The Cabinet Office minister was asked during a round of interviews whether people could need to prove they had been given coronavirus vaccines to enter bars and restaurants. He replied flatly: ‘No.’
Pressed on whether they could be required at theatres or sports centres, he said: ‘No I don’t think so, no.’
Michael Gove was forced to deny that Britons will need ‘immunity certificates’ to go to the pub – despite vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi raising the prospect
The comments contrasted with the words from new vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi, who indicated that although an injection would be voluntary some venues might insist on proof of one before granting entry.
‘You’ll probably find restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues – sports venues – will probably also use that system as they’ve done with the app,’ Mr Zahawi told the BBC.
‘The reason the app has been so successful is because a lot of places that you would go to, they’ve got the QR code from the NHS that you scan for your own safety.’
On a visit to a pharmaceutical company Boris Johnson said it was possible that one of the jabs could be available ‘in a few weeks’.
The imminent prospect of a huge vaccination drive raises questions over whether those waiting for a jab – or refusing to have one – will enjoy fewer freedoms than those who have protection.
Airlines have already been examining the idea of asking for ‘immunity passports’ as a condition of flying.
But grilled on whether the government was looking at ‘vaccine passports, Mr Gove told Sky News: ‘No, that’s not being planned.
‘I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports and I don’t know anyone else in Government…’ He added: ‘I think the most important thing to do is make sure that we vaccinate as many people as possible.’
Some experts have voiced concern about such schemes and raised concerns over data privacy and human rights.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘For a long time now we’ve been looking at the questions that Mr Zahawi was talking about and the question of what’s the impact on the individual in terms of what they can do.’