Freezers stocked with the Pfizer vaccine have been lined up in a row in a secure location ahead of the distribution of the jabs to the NHS, it has been revealed.
Photographs shows dozens of freezers which will keep the vaccines at temperatures as low as -70C ahead of their roll out to care homes and GP surgeries within a fortnight.
Public Health England (PHE) said it has secured 58 specialised Twin Guard ultra-low temperature freezers which provide sufficient storage for approximately five million doses of potential Covid-19 vaccines which require ultra-low temperature storage.
This week Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK was able to speed up the process of approving the Pfizer vaccine because of Brexit.— Peter Stefanovic (@PeterStefanovi2) December 5, 2020
It was total boll**** & has only caused yet more division. Conservative MPs are proudly still repeating it!
RT this & put the record straight pic.twitter.com/Usikvhapwo
Logistical issues mean there are difficulties in getting the jab to residents, as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used.
The fridges, which are not portable, each hold around 86,000 doses. The distribution of vaccine across the UK is being undertaken by Public Health England and the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through systems specially adapted from those used for the national immunisation programmes.
NHS England said NHS staff were working through the weekend to prepare for the launch of the programme.
There are 50 hubs in the first wave in England, with more hospitals starting to vaccinate over the coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: 'Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest scale vaccination campaign in our country's history from Tuesday.
'The first tranche of vaccine deliveries will be landing at hospitals by Monday in readiness.
'The NHS has a strong record of delivering large scale vaccination programmes - from the flu jab, HPV vaccine and lifesaving MMR jabs - hardworking staff will once again rise to the challenge to protect the most vulnerable people from this awful disease.'
Mr Hancock said: 'This coming week will be an historic moment as we begin vaccination against Covid-19.
'We are prioritising the most vulnerable first, and over-80s, care home staff and NHS colleagues will all be among the first to receive the vaccines.
'We are doing everything we can to make sure we can overcome significant challenges to vaccinate care home residents as soon as possible too.
'I urge everybody to play their part to suppress this virus and follow the local restrictions to protect the NHS while they carry out this crucial work.'
GPs were last night told to prepare to receive doses in the week starting December 14, with care homes expected to receive the vaccine in the same week.
In a letter, NHS chiefs said central GP hubs will receive trays of 975 doses and will have to use all of them within three and a half days. The sites to receive the jabs will be confirmed on Monday.
The letter said: 'It is crucial we start to activate local vaccination services to allow priority patient cohorts to start accessing the vaccine.'
The logistics of storing and transporting the complex Pfizer vaccine had delayed plans to make care home residents the first to receive the jabs.
Health bosses had put vulnerable social care residents at the top of a prioritisation list for the vaccine, which received authorisation on Wednesday. But the practicalities of transporting the vaccine – which can be moved only four times and needs to be stored at -70C – meant the plans was delayed.
“Switzerland’s medical regulator Swissmedic says it lacks necessary info to sign off on three diff Covid-19 vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna) ordered by the govt.. The regulator said imp data on safety, efficacy & quality are still missing.”https://t.co/BawuUGRB2f— Kulvinder Kaur MD (@dockaurG) December 4, 2020
Instead, over-80s and care home staff will be the first to receive the jab when the vaccination programme – dubbed Operation Courageous – starts in NHS hospitals next Tuesday.
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, last night warned NHS staff to expect a tough few months, despite the prospect of a vaccine.
In a letter to NHS employees, co-signed by the chief medical officers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Professor Whitty wrote: 'Although the very welcome news about vaccines means that we can look forward to 2021 with greater optimism, vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with Covid over the next three months.
'The social mixing which occurs around Christmas may well put additional pressure on hospitals and general practice in the New Year and we need to be ready for that.
'We think it likely that by spring the effects of vaccination will begin to be felt in reducing Covid admissions, attendances and deaths significantly but there are many weeks before we get to that stage.
'We must support one another as a profession as we go to the next, hard months.'
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hancock said he 'can't wait' to scrap the three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions, and for the country to 'get back to living by mutual respect and personal responsibility, not laws set in Parliament'.
Asked if the start of administering the vaccine this week could bring about a sooner end to the restrictions in the first three months of 2021, he said: 'Yes it will.'
Mr Hancock, who is reportedly referring to Tuesday as 'V-Day', told the newspaper: 'There's no doubt that having the vaccine early... will bring forward the moment when we can get rid of these blasted restrictions but until then we have got to follow them.'
Immunity certificates for people who have been vaccinated against coronavirus are 'possible', Government advisers said yesterday.
Scientists advising on the pandemic have 're-examined' immunity certificates – the idea that people given a Covid jab, or who have recovered from the virus, could be freed from pandemic restrictions for a period of time.
They released their deliberations yesterday, days after the new minister for the vaccines, Nadhim Zahawi, controversially suggested restaurants, bars and cinemas could turn people away if they are unable to show evidence they have been immunised.
Nervtag (the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group), which also advises the Government, concludes: 'Some form of Covid-19 immunity certification is likely to be possible, but further data and considerations are needed before a recommendation can be made.'
It decided to look at immunity certificates after vaccine trials showed jabs offer a 'high degree' of protection against falling ill with Covid.
With the UK well into the second wave of cases, a significant number of previously infected people may also have some immunity. But how long people will be safe for, and the level of protection they have, is not known.
In a section of their document on immunity certificates entitled 'key uncertainties', the advisers state: 'The duration of natural or vaccine-induced immunity is not yet fully understood.'
With airline Qantas set to require international travellers to be vaccinated before allowing them on a plane, immunity certificates have raised concerns over human rights and medical privacy. Critics fear they could eventually be used to deny people access to public transport, universities or jobs.
It comes as medical professionals familiarise themselves with the administration of the new vaccine.
Two of the nurses who'll be leading the immunisation battle were pictured in training yesterday.
Inside the Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic at the University Hospital in Coventry, Matron May Parson was seen touching the spot on her nursing colleague Heather Price to show where the jab is to be given.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove this week insisted the Government is not planning to introduce 'vaccine passports', telling BBC Breakfast: 'Let's not get ahead of ourselves, that's not the plan.'
However there is some evidence suggesting certificates could work, according to Nervtag.
The scientists say a 'high proportion' of people who have had Covid will develop immunity preventing them from falling ill again within a month of having been infected.
This protection is likely to last at least three months, although experts are not completely confident of this.
A vaccine too will protect a high proportion of people. But the sticking point is that experts do not yet know if recovered and vaccinated people can still get infected with Covid without falling ill.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.