Vaccine problems and challenges at start of 2021

Fireworks and drones illuminate the night sky over the The O2 in London as they form a light display as London"s normal New Year"s Eve fireworks display was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
New Year celebrations in LOndon

Happy New Year 2021. I make no apology for continuing the vaccine theme into the new year as it is so important, but problems and challenges appear to be looming. As I posted on wednesday, the government announced a change to its Covid vaccination strategy on the dosage regime, saying that second doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and also the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine would now be given up to 12 weeks after the first dose. This approach would free up more doses and mean as many people as possible would soon get their first jab and have some protection against the disease. The new regime was backed by the chief medical officers of the four UK nations, who have instructed many of the scheduled 500,000 second Pfizer/BioNTech jabs to be postponed.

A woman receiving the Pfizer vaccine
The UK will now give both parts of the Oxford and Pfizer vaccines 12 weeks apart

Unsurprisingly, this policy change is controversial.  Pfizer and BioNTech warned that two doses of their vaccine were required for maximum protection against Covid, and they did not have evidence that the first dose alone offered protection after three weeks.

The chair of the BMA’s GP committee, Dr Richard Vautrey, said: “Local leaders are telling us that is unprofessional and impractical to amend the appointments for thousands of frail, elderly patients”. A number of GP Surgeries plan to ignore the policy change. Dr Alison Bolam, a GP at Horfield health centre in Bristol, said her practice would take this approach. If we try to ring and cancel 1,000 80-year-olds, and then ring 1,000 75-year-olds and ask them to come in instead, we risk wasting vaccine because we don’t have the staff capacity to do that with the bank holiday in the way,” she said. “If anyone gets the first vaccine now, the second one will be 10 to 12 weeks later, but for anybody who has already had it, they will get their second vaccine as originally scheduled.” click full article

In a separate development, GPs in England are to be offered an extra £10 bonus for every care home resident they vaccinate, in an attempt to protect the most vulnerable people in the top priority group before the end of January. click full article. This is outrageous and is another indication that the vaccination programme is in trouble. Many of today’s headlines such as “Join our Jabs Army” talk about bureaucratic delays in recruiting volunteers and retired medics. The Sun urges its readers into action, as it announces a new campaign to recruit volunteers for the vaccine rollout. The campaign – which it says has been backed by the government and NHS – is calling for 50,000 “steward volunteers” to help run pop-up medical centres.

The Daily Mail says the news that one million people in the UK have now had the Covid vaccination marked a hopeful end to the year. But it says “serious questions remain” about the race to immunise everyone else. It says 530,000 doses of the Oxford jab will be available from Monday, despite experts suggesting two million a week are needed. click full source

In America, there is a similar story. The target was to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of 2020, but only 2.6 million had received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, with 12.4 million doses delivered to the States but not vaccinated. President-elect Joe Biden this week criticized the Trump administration for “falling behind” on efforts to vaccinate Americans against the coronavirus and pledged more federal involvement under his watch. Amid concerns about the pace of the vaccine rollout, President Donald Trump said the onus is on states to administer inoculations faster.

Critics say President Donald Trump's team put too much responsibility for vaccinations on resource-strapped state health departments still grappling with the pandemic, while not pressing Congress for aid sooner
Critics say President Donald Trump’s team put too much responsibility for vaccinations on resource-strapped state health departments still grappling with the pandemic, while not pressing Congress for aid sooner

As for shots administered so far, “we are certainly not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December,” Anthony Fauci, the government’s leading infectious disease expert said on CNN Tuesday. On Wednesday, federal health officials expressed confidence that the pace of vaccinations will pick up as soon as next week.

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