It ‘will not be possible’ to vaccinate care home residents with the Pfizer Covid vaccine due to practical constraints, the Welsh Government has said.
The statement also said that ‘for each candidate vaccine final deployment models will be similar across the UK’, indicating this could be a problem across the four nations.
This comes as the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is recommending that care home groups be the first to receive Covid vaccinations.
And as the Pfizer BioNTech was approved for UK use by the MHRA this morning.
The UK Government has yet to declare it will not be possible to get the Pfizer vaccine into care homes, but at this afternoon’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson admitted there were ‘logistical problems’ that need to be overcome to achieve this.
The JCVI has ‘recommended the vaccine be offered to in the first instance to care home residents and health and social care workers, alongside people aged 80 and over’, the Welsh Government statement said.
But the statement, from Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething, added: ‘From our ongoing discussions with UK Government and the manufacturer, and from understanding the conditions under which the vaccine trials have been conducted, we are aware of the challenges of storing, distributing and handling the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. In particular its need for storage at very low temperatures of below minus -75ºC +/- 15ºC.
‘Two specialist sites have been identified as appropriate delivery sites for the vaccine and local Health Boards will collect the vaccines directly from the two sites. We have been exploring suitable options for initial deployment of this vaccine, in line with the JCVI advice, bearing in mind the constraints associated its characteristics and the implications for delivery to all groups. In practical terms at this stage that we cannot deliver this vaccine to care homes.’
Meanwhile, at a press conference this morning, the JCVI was asked if they could confirm that care home residents would indeed be the first to receive this vaccine given the logistical issues.
JVCI chair for Covid-19 immunisation Professor Wei Shen Lim, of Nottingham University Hospitals, answered: ‘The JCVI’s advice is aimed at maximising benefit from vaccines, and therefore it is aimed at the most vulnerable people, which are people in care homes. Whether or not the vaccine itself can be delivered to care homes is obviously an important point and there will be some flexibility in terms of operational constraints.
‘The JCVI’s advice is that every effort should be made to supply vaccines and offer vaccinations to care home residents. Whether or not that is actually doable is dependent on deployment and implementation.’
At today’s PMQs, the Prime Minister was was asked by Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer what plans there are for ‘getting the vaccine quickly into care homes given the practical problems’.
To which Mr Johnson responded: ‘There are logistical challenges to be overcome to get vulnerable people the access to the vaccine that they need. We are working on it with all four administrations in order to ensure that the NHS across the country is able – and it is the NHS who will be in the lead – to distribute it as fast and as sensibly as possible to the most vulnerable groups.
‘He is right to raise that particular logistical difficulty. That’s why it is also important that we get the AstraZeneca vaccine, which we also hope will come onstream.’
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which is still pending MHRA approval, can be kept at regular fridge temperature.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Pulse that further details on care home resident vaccinations and other logistical issues will be clarified over the ‘coming days’.
At today’s press conference, the JCVI presented the latest prioritisation list for Covid vaccinations as:
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- All those 80 years of age and over. Frontline health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- All those 65 years of age and over
- All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- All those 60 years of age and over
- All those 55 years of age and over
- All those 50 years of age and over