Thursday, March 30, 2023

UK vaccination rollout rare success in pandemic

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The UK has edged out other major advanced economies in the coronavirus vaccination race and had inoculated nearly 6% of its population by the end of last week.

After failing to control the spread of the virus, test and locate positive cases, prevent deaths and protect the economy, Britain’s increased efforts to vaccinate its citizens have ministers dreaming that an end to the British Covid-19 crisis could be in sight.

Success is due to a combination of solid planning, a willingness to spend and the centralized structure of the NHS.

With nearly 1.8 million first-dose vaccines given last week and the vaccination rate still increasing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the country on Monday to continue to adhere to lockdown restrictions.

He said, “Don’t breathe now. We are on the road. We protect the most vulnerable. We control the virus. “

After immunizing most over-80s in many areas, the country started immunizing over-70s this week and is on track to meet its goal of giving 15 million first doses by February 15. .

While Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates lead the world in the proportion of the population vaccinated, the UK comes in fourth, ahead of the US and significantly higher than all other European countries. Denmark had inoculated 2.8% of its population by the end of last week, less than half the UK’s 5.9% rate on the same date.

Part of the reason for the UK’s relatively rapid progress is its willingness to loosen the purse strings to fight the pandemic. After spending over £ 280bn, or over 14% of national income, on all aspects of tackling the virus, the government has spent £ 11.7bn on buying, manufacturing and the deployment of Covid-19 vaccines and to support vaccine research, according to the UK’s National Audit Office.

Bar chart of the proportion of inoculated population (%) showing the global Covid-19 vaccination ranking table *

Although the pricing of contracts around the world is not transparent, the UK appears to pay a similar amount per dose to other countries.

The UK medicines regulator has so far approved three vaccines, with the government ordering 100 million dose doses of Oxford / AstraZeneca, developed and manufactured largely in Britain, which uses a harmless adenovirus as a carrier of coronavirus genes.

He also ordered 40 million doses of the BioNTech / Pfizer mRNA vaccine, which carries a very similar set of coronavirus genes in lipid nanoparticles – microscopic droplets of oil.

The Moderna vaccine has been approved for emergency use, and the government has increased the number of doses ordered to 17 million – although they won’t arrive until spring.

The centralized structure of the NHS has stepped up the roll-out of the immunization program, with vaccine provision being the limiting factor, according to ministers.

“We have a consolidated system that operates under a command and control base, and this is the ideal way to implement a vaccination program,” said David Salisbury, until 2013, senior immunization official for the UK government.

“I don’t think anybody can go much faster than the UK unless they have a bigger offer,” he added.

Professor Salisbury warned, however, that the system would be strained in two months, when the government started giving second doses and increasing the number of people getting their first shot.

But an industry figure with knowledge of government procurement praised the planning of the vaccination program, saying the UK ordered loose syringes months ago, while other countries scrambled only to secure vital equipment in the face of stiff global competition for scarce supplies.

Line graph showing

However, not all aspects of the UK’s current strategy for Covid-19 are working well. Positive case rates have plummeted across the UK during the latest lockdown, which saw schools closed for face-to-face lessons, but this has yet to spread to the most vulnerable adults over 80 years.

In these groups, case rates have actually increased over the past few weeks, suggesting that the vaccination policy was not yet working to bring the numbers down and that infections had again spread in nursing homes. .

There are also concerns that vaccines may be less effective against newer strains of the virus, although this should not be a major issue for the B.1.1.7 strain which is becoming the dominant variant in the UK.

For now, the UK is continuing its plan to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

Based on a Scottish government vaccine deployment document which was hastily pulled last week to avoid revealing the UK’s likely vaccine supply, the country hopes to vaccinate 500,000 people a day this week.

Line graph of the share of JCVI * priority groups that should be vaccinated (%) showing the UK expects to have vaccinated 80% of priority groups by early May

That would put the country on track to have given a first dose of vaccine to 80% of all over 50s and vulnerable adults by early May – or 41 million vaccines to 60% of the population. If it achieves this goal, second doses will be administered in early July. This would allow the government to start vaccinating low risk groups.

While ministers hope the vaccination race will allow the lockdown restrictions to be eased quickly, some economists have warned that the math dictates that social distancing is more effective in rapidly reducing the number of cases than a vaccination program.

David Mackie, chief European economist at JPMorgan, estimated that if the vaccine rollout goes as planned, the number of people hospitalized will rise from nearly 40,000 now to just over 10,000 by April. However, if the number of contacts per person had fallen to the level of the first lockdown last year, it would drop to just under 600.

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