The first doses of the approved coronavirus vaccine have arrived in the UK, and the NHS has published a list of the 53 vaccine hubs which will co-ordinate delivery of the jabs in their areas.
Croydon University Hospital NHS Trust, St George’s University Hospitals NHS FT and Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust have both been chosen to store and administer the vaccine during the first
The UK became the first country in the world to give the go-ahead to the vaccine earlier this week, paving the way for vaccinations to start next week.
The country has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab, enough to vaccinate 20 million people with two doses, given 21 days apart.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said 800,000 doses of the jab will arrive next week, while BioNTech chief commercial officer Sean Marett confirmed the UK is likely to receive at least five million doses by the end of the year – half of its initial 2020 order due to a production scaleback.
Issues surrounding storage temperature and how many times it can be transported have prompted the Prime Minister to warn of “immense logistical challenges” in the Pfizer rollout, with experts warning that people in care homes might face a delay in receiving immunisation from the disease.
Local trusts will be responsible for co-ordinating delivering of the vaccine in their areas, with the Croydon and Wandsworth trust hospitals covering south west London, including St George’s Hospital in Tooting, Croydon University Hospital and Purley War Memorial Hospital.
Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust covers north Kent and includes Darent Valley Hospital and Queen Mary’s in Sidcup.
South east London does not have a direct representative, but other local hubs include Guys & St Thomas NHS Trust.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises ministers, has recommended care home residents and staff should be the top priority to receive the vaccine.
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told a Downing Street press briefing that the jab must be stored at such low temperatures – minus 70C – that it could only be moved a few times and could only be shifted in large quantities, making it difficult to administer in care homes.
There is not yet approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to split the vaccine boxes containing 975 doses, meaning it would be wasted if sent to individual residential homes.
Liam Smeeth, a non-executive director of the MHRA, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that splitting the boxes was “being considered” by the regulator but “whatever they do, they will stick to keeping it safe and effective”.
Wales’s chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton confirmed the prioritisation list would have to be tempered as the devolved government would need to use mass vaccination centres which involved “people moving towards the vaccine”.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JCVI, said the vaccine priority list was designed to be flexible.
“Our clear remit was to decide on prioritisation groups but that there were going to be vaccine product storage, transport and administration constraints, and individual local circumstances,” he told the Today programme.
“We have advised in our statement that there is flexibility at an approach to this list according to what was actually feasible and logistical on the ground, so this is not wholly unexpected, but the clear list that we have drawn out is a list of priority in terms of vulnerability.”
It is hoped that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, if approved by the regulator, will allow for easier administration on a mass scale as it can be stored at normal fridge-like temperatures.
Professor Ugur Sahin, co-founder of BioNTech, agreed that the rollout of the vaccine was a “challenge”.
Pfizer and BioNTech have said the jab can be sent to care homes as long as it travels for no more than six hours after it leaves cold storage and is then put in a normal fridge at 2C to 8C.
Despite the hurdles, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said Covid-19 will be defeated by the spring.
Asked if he was confident the whole nation will have had two vaccinations by the spring, he told Sky News: “It’s over the coming months we’re going to see the rollout. Further plans will be outlined.”
Public Health England will process orders placed by the NHS for next-day delivery to hospital hubs around the UK.
Meanwhile, a further 648 people had died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, while there were a further 16,170 lab-confirmed cases.
The list of the 53 NHS vaccine hubs are
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Croydon University Hospital NHS Trust
Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust
Dorset County Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust
East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (Colchester Hospital)
Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Guys & St Thomas NHS Trust
James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Kings College Hospital – Princess Royal University Hospital
Lancashire Teaching Hospital Trust
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Leicester Partnership NHS Trust
Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Medway NHS Foundation Trust
Mid and South Essex Hospitals Trust
Milton Keynes University Hospital
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital
Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust
North Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
North West Anglia Foundation Trust
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
Portsmouth Hospital University Trust
Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust
Stockport NHS Foundation Trust
St George’s University Hospitals NHS FT
The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
University College Hospitals Trust
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire
University Hospitals Derby Burton NHS FT
University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust
University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust
Wirral University Teaching Hospital
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust