Covid Vaccine: Here’s What We Know About The Rollout

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could be given to people in the UK in early 2021.

Thousands of volunteers with no medical background at all could be trained up to administer the coronavirus vaccine in a bid to deliver the government’s mass immunisation plans, it has emerged.

St John Ambulance will be one of the organisations delivering training to those who sign up, a representative for the charity confirmed on Monday evening.

In plans leaked to the Daily Mail, St John Ambulance said future vaccine volunteers would “be trained to deliver the actual injection to patients”.

Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna have recently announced successful trials of their vaccine candidates, boosting hopes that a mass vaccination programme could be under way by early next year.

The British Medical Association (BMA) says the intention is to prepare for a service to be delivered from 1 December, however the actual start date will depend on the availability of the vaccines.

Here’s what we know so far about how the vaccine will be delivered, and administered, across the UK.

How will vaccines be transported?

It depends on what sort of vaccine is used. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which will have to come to Britain from the company’s distribution centre in Belgium, needs to be stored at minus 70C.

The moment the vaccine leaves the factory, it can only be taken out of minus 70C four times before it is injected into a patient’s arm. But it can be stored at a warmer temperature in the two days prior to being used, implying that the vaccine will be able to be administered two days after deliveries without the need for new refrigeration systems.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said he has “confidence” the NHS can deliver an approved vaccine despite the logistics involved.

File photo of a nurse preparing to give a patient a vaccine
File photo of a nurse preparing to give a patient a vaccine

The Moderna vaccine, which is working on a formula based on similar technology, does not need to be stored at such a low temperature.

Other vaccines including ones from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax can be stored at 2-8 degrees C, the temperature of a regular refrigerator.

Pfizer spokesperson Kim Bencker said one detailed plan includes using dry ice to transport frozen vaccine vials by both air and land at their recommended temperatures for up to 10 days.

They can be kept in an ultra-low temperature freezer for up to six months, or for five days at 2-8 degrees C – a type of refrigeration commonly available at hospitals, Bencker said.

The Pfizer storage units can also be refilled with ice for up to 15 days, she said.

But shots will spoil in around five days at normal refrigeration temperatures of slightly above freezing. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told Reuters the companies are analyzing if they can extend that for two weeks.

How will they be administered?

As well as being given by GPs, organisations including St John Ambulance will be delivering training to non-medics to give the vaccine under a new legal amendment.

These individuals would also have to “potentially react to any immediate adverse reactions”.

The only criteria is that the volunteer be between the age of 18 and 69, have at least two or more A-levels or equivalent, be at low risk of Covid-19 and be prepared to undergo a reference check.

In October, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended the government introduce a new national protocol to allow non-medics to administer a future vaccine.

The law was amended last month to allow more healthcare workers – such as paramedics, physiotherapists or student doctors and nurses, as well as doctors and nurses working outside the NHS – to vaccinate.

This law has now been extended to include “people who are not registered healthcare professionals” to “safely administer a Covid-19 or influenza vaccine,” the Mail reported.

According to the BMA, local pharmacies may also be commissioned to administer the vaccine where GP coverage is not enough.

Who will get it first?

Eligible patients will be confirmed soon, but are expected to be in line with the latest JCVI (joint committee on vaccination and immunisation) recommendations.

  • all over the age of 50
  • those at high risk
  • care home residents and staff
  • all health and care workers (although it is unlikely that general practice will be required to deliver to all health and care staff who may get it from their employer).

The high priority groups will be vaccinated first, and as the vaccine becomes more available, practices will be able to provide this to increasing numbers.


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