Doctors warn jab rollout could become shambles like PPE fiasco amid delays in distributing vaccine

Doctors, MPs and care chiefs have warned the Government that its vaccine programme could turn into a ‘shambles like the PPE fiasco’ if distribution issues with the rollout are not fixed.

Hundreds of GP surgeries and hospitals are still waiting to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine, while doctors warn they are having to cancel appointments for the elderly due to a hold-up in receiving the jab.

Meanwhile, only seven areas of England have so far received the vaccine, meaning just 3,000 of the country’s 15,000 care homes can currently access the jab – sparking criticism from care chiefs.

Yesterday MPs urged ministers not to repeat the PPE ‘shambles’, while the British Medical Association told the Sunday Mirror that any distribution issues ‘must be resolved as a matter of urgency’.

Doctors, MPs and care chiefs have warned the Government that its vaccine (pictured: library image) programme could turn into a 'shambles like the PPE fiasco' if current issues with the rollout are not fixed

Doctors, MPs and care chiefs have warned the Government that its vaccine (pictured: library image) programme could turn into a ‘shambles like the PPE fiasco’ if current issues with the rollout are not fixed 

Hundreds of GP surgeries and hospitals are still waiting to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine (pictured), while doctors warn they are having to cancel jab appointments for the elderly due to the hold-up

Hundreds of GP surgeries and hospitals are still waiting to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine (pictured), while doctors warn they are having to cancel jab appointments for the elderly due to the hold-up

Hospitals set up makeshift Covid intensive care beds in children’s wards under ‘surge capacity’ measures

Health chiefs have warned that hospitals are bracing themselves by setting up makeshift Covid intensive care beds in children’s wards under ‘surge capacity measures’.

Yesterday it was confirmed cases had increased by a third since last Saturday as 34,693 people tested positive in England and Wales alone amid a new highly-infectious strain of coronavirus

The increase in infections has prompted health bosses to warn that hospital admissions could overtake the highest figure of 21,683 recorded during the first wave.

According to the Sunday Times, hospitals have been ordered to prepare ‘surge capacity’ measures with some trusts setting up makeshift intensive care beds in paediatric and cancer wards.

A senior government official told the Sunday Times the new strain of Covid had overtaken the old and was ‘running rampant’ in the UK. 

The warning comes after a leaked memo revealed the imminent pressure facing the NHS.

The six-page memo, which was sent to hospital bosses last Wednesday, confirmed that Covid hospital admissions were ‘rising in almost all parts of the country’ as NHS chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard instructed bosses to prepare.

Pritchard said that ‘NHS trusts should continue to safely mobilise all of their available surge capacity over the coming weeks’ including maximising the use of the independent sector and Nightingale hospitals.

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So far, as of Christmas Eve, 616,933 people in the UK had been given their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The UK has bought 40million doses of the vaccine.  The first 800,000 batches were distributed to several dozen hospital hubs across the UK earlier this month. 

But, according to the Sunday Mirror, around half of England’s 135 trusts are still waiting for the jab, along with hundreds of surgeries.

In one area of Warwickshire, where 3,500 over-80s are on the list for vaccinations, only 975 vaccine doses were delivered last week, the paper reports. 

Regional chair of the BMA, Dr Gary Marlowe, hit out at the Government, saying it does ‘not seem to be world-beating at logistics’.

The Government has also come under fire from care chiefs, who have accused them of ‘failing to make homes a safe haven’.  

The warnings comes amid growing concern that some older and vulnerable people in the areas where the jabs have so far been rolled-out are not taking up the Pfizer vaccine. 

At one health centre in South London, The Mail on Sunday learned that 75 doses of the vaccine were left over as uptake had been so low.     

Mangers have been left scrambling to find other patients to vaccinate and even offered a jab to healthy volunteers working there.

The Pfizer vaccine must be used within five days of being thawed or it offers no protection. Experts suggested that elderly people may be struggling with transport or are nervous about venturing outdoors. 

Caroline Abrahams at Age UK, said: ‘Simply getting to and from hospital is a huge challenge for a lot of older people.’

But an NHS spokesman insisted: ‘Uptake has been strong so far.’

The fears follow reports that care home residents have yet to receive the vaccine in large numbers despite being classed as high priority. 

The Times reported Whitehall figures which suggested people in care only accounted for 0.3 per cent of the first 613,000 people who have received the jab.  

Today a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), vaccines have been administered to care home residents, those aged 80 and over and health and social care staff through over 500 vaccination sites across the UK.

The Pfizer vaccine must be used within five days of being thawed or it offers no protection

The Pfizer vaccine must be used within five days of being thawed or it offers no protection

Europe finally starts vaccinating… three weeks after Britain

Almost three weeks after the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to offer the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in a mass inoculation programme, Europe has finally started to roll out doses of the drug.

The first shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been despatched from a manufacturing centre in Belgium, allowing most health authorities to begin delivering jabs to the most vulnerable across the continent from today. 

But Hungary, Slovakia and Germany stole a march on their EU neighbours when they began vaccinating care workers and people in homes for the elderly yesterday, a day before leaders had planned to start a co-ordinated continental roll-out. 

‘Every day that we wait is one day too many,’ said Tobias Krueger, operator of the nursing home.

The first person there to be immunised with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 101-year-old Edith Kwoizalla, the dpa news agency reported.

Krueger said 40 of the home’s 59 residents wanted the immunisation shot along with 10 of around 40 workers. 

He was among those immunised but added, ‘I also understand the concerns.’

Mass vaccination across the European Union, home to almost 450 million people, would be a crucial step towards ending a pandemic that has killed more than 1.7 million around the world, crippled economies and destroyed businesses and jobs.

The roll-out gives hope to some of the world’s worst-hit countries. At least 16 million cases of coronavirus have been reported across the EU, with more than 360,000 deaths. 

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‘The vaccine roll out in care homes in England began on Wednesday 16 December, with hundreds of residents vaccinated across care homes in Slough, Aintree, Herne Bay, Thanet, Chalfont St Peter, Droitwich and Cheltenham, as well as Chelsea Pensioners.

‘We are working hard to vaccinate all care home residents and workers as quickly and safely as possible.’

However there is a flash of hope that Britain could be free of tight Covid restrictions by the end of February.  

Today Ministers pinpointed the 15 million people who would need vaccinations to end the cycles of crippling lockdowns.

With the ‘game-changing’ Oxford jab expected to be approved within days, the Government hopes that enough doses will soon be available to inoculate those most vulnerable to coronavirus within weeks.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told The Sun that approval would likely be granted on Monday, with plans to roll out jabs to the entire country starting January 4, according to The Telegraph

Sports stadiums and conference centres would be comandeered to help the effort, with ministers planning to have 2million jab administered within a fortnight. 

Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak says the Covid breakthroughs – combined with the newly minted post-Brexit trade deal with the EU – signalled an optimistic new era for the UK.

Hailing the ‘early roll-out of vaccines and the incredible work of our scientists and NHS‘, Mr Sunak pledges that next year will be the first in a ‘new era of global Britain’. He also hopes to consign the rancour of the Brexit feuds to history, writing: ‘In 2021 we won’t be Remainers or Leavers – only believers in Britain.’

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency could authorise the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca as early as New Year’s Eve.

Britain has an advance order for 100 million doses of this jab, to join a further 40 million doses of the approved Pfizer vaccine which are already being rolled out.

Boris Johnson said last week that 800,000 vaccinations had been administered so far.

Rishi Sunak during a visit to Imperial Clinic Research Facility at Hammersmith Hospital in west London

Rishi Sunak during a visit to Imperial Clinic Research Facility at Hammersmith Hospital in west London

Government sources say that between 12 million and 15 million people have been identified as likely to require hospital treatment if they contract coronavirus, or be at risk of dying from it.

Once this group has received the vaccine – which some officials hope could be achieved by the end of February – then the NHS would no longer be at risk of being overwhelmed if the virus spread through the greater population.

That would remove the main argument for shutting the economy at a stroke.

A source said: ‘The path to liberation is finally becoming clear.’

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