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 turning locations across the country into mass vaccine sites, including the mothballed Nightingale hospital at London ExCel centre, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, and Ashton Gate football stadium in Bristol. Northern locations include the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, the Centre for Life science park in Newcastle, and Leicester racecourse.
The Army is expected to play a role in the delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine due to the challenges presented by its low temperature storage requirements, with almost 3,000 personnel assisting with 54 live government requests as of last week. Another 14,000 are on standby to help with the pandemic under the Government’s winter plan.
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 Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority 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.
It comes as Michael Gove was forced to deny that Britons would be forced to have vaccines to resume normal life, after Boris Johnson’s new vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi indicated that people could be required to show ‘immunity passports’ to prove they have had a jab before entering bars, cinemas and sports venues.
In other coronavirus news:
- More than 50 MPs rebelled against Boris Johnson’s ‘back of a fag packet’ post-lockdown tiers tonight – but they were approved by the Commons thanks to tacit support from Sir Keir Starmer;
- Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has said two scotch eggs would be ‘a starter’, 24 hours after Environment Secretary George Eustice said one is a substantial meal for the purposes of buying alcohol in pubs in Tier 2. But Mr Gove added to the confusion by saying later it could also count as a main meal;
- Sir Keir Starmer was accused of ‘playing politics’ in the middle of the pandemic after he ordered his MPs to sit out the crucial vote tonight on the rules that will replace lockdown;
- Stratford-on-Avon District Council mounted a legal challenge against being placed into Tier 3;
- Mr Gove has denied that Britons will need ‘immunity certificates’ to go to the pub – despite a fellow minister raising the prospect yesterday;
- Mr Gove pointed to Wales as an example of how lockdown should not be done, after it announced pubs will be forced to close at 6pm and banned from selling alcohol drinks from Friday as the country faces new curbs just weeks after the ‘firebreak’ ended;
- The Government announced a further 603 Covid deaths on Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 59,051.
Military personnel are turning locations across the country into mass vaccine sites, including the mothballed Nightingale hospital at London ExCel centre, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, and Ashton Gate football stadium in Bristol. Northern locations include the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, the Centre for Life science park in Newcastle, and Leicester racecourse. It comes days after Boris Johnson appointed Nadhim Zahawi as his new vaccine tsar
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’
The UK recorded another 13,430 coronavirus infections and 603 deaths in the past 24 hours as England exits shutdown
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.
Professor’s Jonathan Van-Tam’s ‘mum test’ won’t be enough to convince everyone to get a Covid jab, expert warns
Professor Jonathan Van Tam’s ‘mum test’ won’t be enough to convince Britons to take
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer attempted to reassure people about jabs last month by claiming he’d encouraged his elderly mother to get inoculated.
But, in an editorial in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) today, David Phizackerley said many Britons ‘will want to base their decision on more than press releases and the ‘mum test’.
Mr Phizackerley, deputy editor of the DTB, said many Britons will want to have clear, balanced information on vaccination risks and benefits before feeling confident about taking them.
He warned the risks, side effects and unknown aspects of the vaccines had been drowned out by the ‘enthusiastic’ coverage by media and politicians.
Britain is revving up to start administering thousands of jabs a day as soon as one is given approval by the medical regulator, which could be within days.
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.
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.’
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.
Michael Gove was forced to deny that Britons will need ‘immunity certificates’ to go to pubs, cinemas and sports venues – despite Boris Johnson’s new vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi raising the prospect this week
‘Not EVERY death is a tragedy’: Tory MP Sir Charles Walker warns that ‘you can’t compare the death of a baby or teenager with a 90-year-old’ as he rages against Boris Johnson’s coronavirus restrictions
Sir Charles Walker told the House of Commons that ‘no government can abolish death, it’s impossible’ as he raged against the Prime Minister’s latest restrictions.
The Conservative MP for Broxbourne said ‘a tragedy is when a child dies’ and when politicians use the same word to describe the death of an elderly person they ‘diminish that life so well lived’.
The backbencher urged ministers to ‘change the narrative when we talk about death because not all deaths are equal’ and ‘to compare the death of someone of 90 with the death of someone of 19 is not right’.
Sir Charles has been one of the leading Tory voices speaking against the Government’s coronavirus rules in recent months, blasting ministers for taking away freedoms.
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.’
It comes as more than 50 MPs rebelled against Mr Johnson’s ‘back of a fag packet’ post-lockdown tiers tonight – but they were approved by the Commons thanks to tacit support from Sir Keir Starmer.
The new system was signed off by a margin of 291 to 78 and will come into force tomorrow after Labour opted to abstain, despite complaining the regime was not tough enough and there was not enough support for hospitality firms.
Although the headline 213 majority was healthy, there were 55 Conservative rebels – plus Julian Lewis, who is currently suspended. That made it easily the biggest mutiny of this Parliament, after 44 previously went against the pubs curfew. Another 17 appear to have abstained, although it is not clear how many were given permission to stay away.
Sir Keir also suffered his own revolt, with 15 defying the whip, alongside the suspended Jeremy Corbyn and eight DUP politicians.
Dozens of Mr Johnson’s own side went through the Noe lobby even though he stood there in person cajoling them to support the government.
But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab brushed aside suggestions the Government was worried about the scale of the revolt and instead took aim at Labour for abstaining.
Now you CAN hug your granny: Ministers REVERSE ban on hugging elderly loved ones in care homes this Christmas as they roll out rapid coronavirus tests
Care home residents will finally be able to hug their families again, ministers announced last night.
A national roll-out of rapid tests means relatives who are free of Covid will be allowed visits for the first time since March.
Each care home resident will be able to nominate two loved ones to see them twice a week, regardless of which coronavirus tier they are in.
More than a million testing kits have already been sent out to almost 400 large care homes and the first visits can take place today.
The announcement is a major victory for the Daily Mail’s campaign for families to be reunited by Christmas.
‘This is a game-changing moment for visits,’ said Vic Rayner of the National Care Forum.
‘It will be embraced across the country by care home residents, their loved ones and providers.’
Guidelines issued by the Department of Health last night say the ‘default position’ is visits should go ahead in all tiers – unless there is a coronavirus outbreak in the care home.
He said tonight: ‘We listened to MPs on all sides of the House, we passed this vote with a majority of over 200.
‘The most striking thing about these numbers is that the leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer abstained on the biggest issue facing this country today as we go through this pandemic and he’s got nothing to say about it, no leadership, he doesn’t know what he thinks or what the country should do.’
The Labour move guaranteed the Government victory but left Mr Johnson exposed to the anger of his own benches. The day was spent desperately trying to peel off opponents, with the premier hinting that many low-infection areas could by brought out of the toughest tiers at the next review on December 16.
He also offered a ‘one-off’ payment of £1,000 to ‘wet’ pubs – that do not serve food – this month as recognition of ‘how hard they’ve been hit by this virus in what is typically their busiest month’.
In a last-gasp Zoom call with mutinous Tories before the division, Mr Johnson warned they must not be like children in the back of a car saying ‘are we nearly there yet?’
Winding up the debate, Health Secretary Matt Hancock choked back tears as he referred to the death of his step grandfather from Covid in Liverpool last month, and warned the government could not ease off the restrictions too much. ‘We’ve got to beat this, we’ve got to beat it together,’ he pleaded.
Earlier, MPs lined up in the House to slam the Government plans despite the PM urging them to back his ‘compelling’ case for his new post-lockdown tiers.
Former health minister Jackie Doyle-Price summed up the feeling for many by storming: ‘These decisions are being taken really on the back of a fag packet but are destroying whole swathes of the hospitality industry.’
The strength of feeling among critical backbenchers even led typically backbenchers to defy the PM, with former cabinet minister Jeremy Wright voting against the Government ‘for the first time in 10 years’.
A government spokesman said: ‘We welcome tonight’s vote which endorses our Winter Plan, brings an end to the national restrictions and returns England to a tiered system.
‘This will help to safeguard the gains made during the past month and keep the virus under control. We will continue to work with MPs who have expressed concerns in recent days.’
Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Tories, urged the government to ‘take on board’ the criticism.
‘We very much regret that in a moment of national crisis so many of us felt forced to vote against the measures that the government was proposing,’ the former chief whip said.