Hancock announces purchase of new vaccine and strengthening Tier system in today’s COVID brief

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As PM isolates after meeting with COVID positive MP, Health Secretary Matt Hancock takes over COVID briefing, confirming the purchase of new vaccine, and advises tighter restrictions as England emerges from lockdown on 2nd December

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that the UK has secured 5 million doses of the promising new vaccine Moderna in light of encouraging preliminary results which suggest the vaccine is 94.5% effective in clinical trials, in today’s coronavirus briefing.

When answering queries surrounding the prioritisation of vaccine distribution, Hancock stated that the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations, advises him on who should get priority, based on clinical reasons.

Van Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer added that the current recommendations are provisional. He says that is because full data is not available.

The clinically extremely vulnerable are on the priority list, even the young, going down right to the age of 18, he says.

The UK now has a portfolio of 7 vaccinations available for administration and further testing. The government states it has already secured access to 350 million vaccine doses by advance ordering those that are promising and in development:

  • 100m doses of University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (in phase 3 clinical trials).
  • 60m doses of Novavax vaccine (in phase 3 clinical trials).
  • 60m doses of Valneva vaccine (in pre-clinical trials).
  • 60m doses of GSK/Sanofi Pasteur vaccine (in phase 1 clinical trials).
  • 40m doses of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine (in phase 3 clinical trials).
  • 30m doses of Janssen vaccine (in phase 2 clinical trials).

Hancock also articulated the possible necessity of strengthening the tier system in a post-lockdown world to minimise spikes in cases, as deaths and hospitalisations are still rising in the UK.

This sentiment was echoed by Dr Susan Hopkins, a deputy director of Public Health England and medical adviser to NHS test and trace, who conveyed medical guidelines advising the necessity of tighter restrictions under the tier system when the England lockdown is over on the proposed date of the 2nd December.

It is likely that this advice will be picked up by the Scottish Government regarding Scotland’s own tier system, although as of yet no official spokesperson has articulated this.

Hopkins said:

“We have recognised that the tiering of the country has had a different effect in each area.

“Tier 3, and especially tier 3 plus in the north, has had an effect in reducing the numbers of cases in the North-West and we can see the North-West’s declining number of cases now.

“Tier 2 seems to hold in some areas and not so well in others, and so really it depends on how fast transmission is occurring and how well the individuals in the population are taking that advice in.

“We see very little effect from tier 1 and I think when we look at what tiers may be there in the future we will have to think about strengthening them in order to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone.”

Sage, the government’s Scientific Advisory Committee for Emergencies had articulated the same advice in a statement drafted two weeks ago, illustrating that scientific advice is in agreement over this proposal.

Addressing concerns that cases will rise if things simply go back to the way they were pre second lockdown, Hancock articulated that Sage and other bodies do not perceive any problems with the tier system, merely the adherence to it that we observed pre-lockdown.

Hopkins categorically stated that tier 1 regulations have failed to succeed in their purpose, while conveying success at tier 2 and tier 3 restrictions. Hopkins articulated the need for a revision and tightening of the tier system.

Concerns have been raised over the lifting of lockdown on the 2nd of December given the still-rising deaths and hospitalisations within the country.

Addressing this, Hancock stated that it is too early to know what will happen on December 2nd, and indicated a responsive approach will be employed, with carful monitoring of the rate of infection and new cases.

Both Hancock and Hopkins articulated the need to observe falling numbers of cases, which they expect to see as a result of lockdown.

Hancock, amongst many others has articulated that a great deal of reported cases are a result of improved testing and detection, not an increase in overall infection rates.

Featured Image Credit: Stefan Rousseau/AFP/Getty Images

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