Speaking to Jonathan Saxty on Brexit Watch, Nigel Farage warned if the Government is as efficient with vaccine distribution as it has been with test and trace, it will be a long time before the vaccine gets out in enough quantities for Boris Johnson to get the country back to normal. The Brexit Party leader predicted the country could be locked down until Easter. He said: “With the mindset we’re got, not just from Boris, I mean Michael Gove, goodness gracious me!
“Did you read his apocalypse now article last Saturday?
“They are so safety first with all of this – and yes, sure, it’s not an easy job for a government in a pandemic – but they’re so safety first.
“If they’re as efficient at getting the vaccine out as they’ve been with the £12 billion spent on test and trace, it’s going to be a very, very long time before this vaccine gets out in sufficient quantities for them to feel able to get the country moving.
“I’m afraid – and I don’t want viewers to have to contemplate this but I think they’re going to have to – we’re going to be locked down until Easter.
“I just don’t see this Government changing track.”
GP surgeries have been told to be ready to start staffing Covid-19 vaccination centres by December 14.
In a letter sent out across England’s primary care networks, NHS England and NHS Improvement warned the “scale and complexity” of the immunisation programme would make it “one of the greatest challenges the NHS has ever faced”.
It was signed by Dr Nikita Kanani, medical director for primary care at NHS England and NHS Improvement, and Ed Waller, director of primary care at the same institutions.
“It is crucial we start to activate local vaccination services to allow priority patient cohorts to start accessing the vaccine,” it said.
The vaccination sites must be ready to administer 975 doses of the vaccine to priority patients within three-and-a-half days of delivery on December 14.
Speed is of the essence with the vaccine, as it is usually stored at -70C and will only remain stable at fridge temperatures of between 2C-8C for a limited period of time.
There are 975 doses in each of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine packs, which has posed a logistical problem of how they can be broken up and distributed to other key sites such as care homes.
The first to receive the vaccine in the centres will be those aged 80 and over, as long as their other risk factors “clinical or otherwise” had been taken into account.
NHS England and NHS Improvement said the number of vaccination sites in each clinical commissioning group (CCG) area will vary according to the number of residents it has who are over 80.
CCGs have been asked to consider inequalities and deprivation – some of the biggest Covid-19 risk factors – when choosing the sites for their vaccination centres.
Each centre will also be supplied with the “IT equipment necessary to deliver the programme and a fridge”, the letter said.
It added: “We will be writing to sites identified as part of wave 1 on Monday, setting out full details of vaccine supply dates, delivery of other consumables and equipment to the site, and the process for assuring readiness before delivery of vaccines.”
It said staff at the vaccination sites would be provided with training, and be “given full support to mobilise within the timescale”.
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The staff at the first sites to open are due to get login details for the IT system set up to deliver the vaccination programme “as soon as possible”.
CCGs were told they must “offer all possible assistance” to the vaccine sites as the programme gets under way, including helping them with logistics and setting up clinical waste arrangements.
They were also warned that while urgent care must be provided by GPs even when the vaccine is being delivered, the vaccination programme must be their top priority.
It urged all primary care providers to work together to maximise uptake and minimise wastage.
The letter added that £150 million in funding is available to ensure there is the staff and resources for GPs to meet their usual obligations and deliver the vaccine programme.
It finished: “This is a hugely exciting moment for general practice and you who will be playing a key part in this important programme.”