Following months of rigorous clinical trials, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has concluded that the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine meets its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. This is a remarkable scientific breakthrough in the global response to the pandemic.
The Government had already asked the NHS to be ready to deliver a vaccination programme for England as soon as a safe and effective vaccine became available. In Sussex, detailed planning is well progressed, building on the expertise and strong track record the NHS has already in delivering immunisations like the annual flu vaccination programme.
A priority in all planning is to ensure that it is as easy as possible for eligible people to access a vaccination as they become available. The NHS, working with partners, will deliver the vaccine through a network of locations, for example to vulnerable and housebound people in their own homes, through local vaccination services and at larger vaccination centres.
Eligibility for the vaccine is prioritised by the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. Its most recent advice is that vaccines should first be given to care home residents and staff, people aged over 80 and health and care workers, before being rolled out to the rest of the population in order of age and risk.
Delivering the Pfizer vaccine is complex as it needs to be stored at very cold temperatures and moved carefully, so at first it will be delivered from identified Hospital Hubs that have the facilities to store this vaccine. The programme will expand as more vaccine is received and can be made available in other settings, including local vaccination services and care homes.
The NHS will contact people when they are eligible to receive the vaccine, providing full details of how and where they can book their vaccination.
In Sussex, targeted local engagement is planned to ensure that members of our community who traditionally experience health inequalities receive all the information they need and so that any barriers to take-up can be understood and addressed.
Rolling out the vaccine as quickly as possible will mean recruiting more staff and volunteers – both clinical and non-clinical – to ensure the NHS can continue to maintain other vital services. More information for those wanting to support this historic vaccination effort in Sussex is available at www.ksscovid.nhs.uk.
While COVID-19 is still present in our communities, it is vitally important that everyone continues to remember hands, face and space and maintain the highest standards of infection prevention and control.