Green light for the UK’s first Covid vaccine: What happens next?
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A Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK and the Health Secretary has said that “the end is in sight”.
But what needs to happen before people actually start to receive the vaccine?
There are huge logistical challenges behind delivering a vaccine which needs to be stored between minus 70C (minus 94F) and minus 80C (minus 112F).
Work has been going on behind the scenes to ensure that staff are ready to start delivering jabs to the most vulnerable, as well as health and care workers, as a priority.
Months of preparation has gone into arranging the delivery of a vaccine.
Mass vaccination clinics have been proposed, with a number of venues suggested, including sports halls, leisure centres and even the Copper Box stadium in London’s Olympic Park.
The NHS Nightingale Hospitals have also been earmarked as sites for mass vaccination clinics – among other uses.
Hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacists have also been put on standby.
Meanwhile St John Ambulance is recruiting thousands of volunteers to help with the rollout.
In addition, NHS leaders have said there will be “roving teams” deployed to vaccinate care home residents and workers.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at an ultra low temperature until a few days before being delivered to a patient.
It has been suggested that the vaccine vials will be stored in hospitals and wholesalers which have appropriate freezers.
The typical GP practice will not have the facilities to store the vaccine at this temperature.
Vaccine transport has also been taken into consideration – it needs to be transported at sub zero temperatures and handled extremely carefully.
Pfizer’s manufacturing site in Puurs, Belgium, is being used for European supply.
The vaccine will be delivered by planes – Pfizer has already ruled out ocean transport due to timings.
The company has created special suit-cased size containers fitted with temperature and GPS trackers to ship the vaccine.
Once the vaccine supply arrives in the UK it will undergo quality checks to ensure it has been shipped safely.
The vaccine will then be unloaded and moved to storage freezers where it will undergo a further temperature check.
It is understood that the vaccine can only be transported four times. It takes three moves to get the vials to storage hubs across Britain. So the final move will need to take place just before the vaccine is given to a patient.
The trays of vaccine come in batches of 1,000 which could pose problems when delivering vaccines to care home.
Care homes typically have dozens of residents. None have a thousand. This means that if a batch is delivered to a care home then there could be a potential waste of precious vaccine stock.
Health officials are working out the logistics on how to safely give the inoculation to care home residents.
Supplies will be shipped to hospitals.
It is believed that at first the rollout will begin in hospital sites with sub-zero freezing capacity.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this morning that 50 hospitals across the country are already set up and waiting to receive the vaccine.
Meanwhile officials have also taken into consideration other factors such as personal protective equipment for staff delivering vaccines.
People will be offered vaccination appointments – they shouldn’t immediately call their GP requesting a jab.
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