Vaccine rollout gives Britain a rare victory in fighting the epidemic


Pizza-sized boxes of the Pfizer vaccine arrived Thursday afternoon, one hour ahead of schedule, putting a race against the clock at Bloomsbury Surgery, a medical clinic in London’s Camden district, that turned into a lukewarm vaccination center during the epidemic Went. .

Because the vaccine could only be refrigerated for three days, once it arrived at the clinic, health care workers knew they would have to inject 400 doses a day by Saturday to use the supplies. There was already a line of people waiting for “jabs”, so doctors rapidly diluted the vaccine, placed the vials on trays and handed them to a team of assistants.

It has become one of the most ambitious mass collectives in modern British history. Britain has set up dozens of vaccination centers in sports stadiums, churches, mosques, even an open-air museum in the Midlands, which are familiar with television views as a set of the popular crime series “Peak Blinders”.

With around 8 million people, or 11.7% of the population, having already received their first shot, the pace of UK vaccination is the fastest in any major nation in the world. Only Israel and the United Arab Emirates are moving fast.

Rapid rollout is a rare success for a country whose response to coronovirus has otherwise dissolved – prone to delays, reversals and mixed messages. All of which has contributed to the recent increase in the last 100,000 and cementing Britain’s position as the worst-case country in Europe.

After the vaccine war broke out between Britain and the European Union, the breakthrough brought its own headaches: doctors now worry about supply shortages. The European Union on Friday imposed an export ban on vaccines after accusing AstraZeneca, a British-based vaccine manufacturer, of favoring its home market.

And Britain’s aggressive approach is not without risks: to reach more people quickly, they opted to delay giving them a second dose for 12 weeks after the first, rather than the three or four weeks tested in clinical trials Chose.

The Bloomsbury Clinic, however, had a different British atmosphere to it. Most elderly patients patiently waited in line, rolled up their sleeves for their jabs, and then retired to an outdoor gazebo for 15 minutes to monitor for possible reactions.

“Many of my friends have it,” Emereniana Mora, 72, a retired switchboard operator, said of the vaccine as she watches Nasra Yusuf, a medical assistant, prepare the needle. “Even the queen has.”

The altercation between Britain and its European neighbors prompted some to claim early air from Brexit. Britain’s divorce from the European Union helped it undergo political vaccination before it was subjected to multiple vaccines and rapidly shut down its production of the vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

Abdul Hannan, 79, receives the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at Bloomsbury Surgery, London on Thursday 28 January 2021. (Andrew Testa / The New York Times)

France, in contrast, has only 1% of its population vaccinated by our world and 2.4% in Germany, according to the number of data collected by our world. This reflects a supply shortage that pervades the entire continent, as well as EU regulators’ slow pace in approving vaccines.

But Britain’s success is also the result of back-to-basics decisions of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.

Instead of handing the campaign over to private companies or building it from scratch, as was done with its expensive, ineffective contact tracing operation, the government has placed vaccination in the hands of the National Health Service, which, despite financial strains, is still widespread The British public is reverentially.

Beyond state hospitals, physicians are at the forefront of the program. Not only are those trusted doctors experienced as seasonal in charge with seasonal flu vaccination, but it has also allowed these doctors to accurately target people in the government’s highest priority groups.

This is in contrast to the more fragmented approach in the United States. While Americans have had to scramble for appointments on fake online portals and overwhelmed telephone hotlines, British hospitals and physicians have instructed themselves to schedule time, allowing them to start with their oldest and most vulnerable patients .

And while the US says that complex regulations are used for those eligible for vaccination – who have contributed to slow rollout in some places – the UK has a clear system of prioritizing those who are of their age Causes have the highest risk of dying from the virus. With nursing home colleagues and health care workers who treat them.

A general practitioner and the head of a federation of doctors, Drs. “We work through priority groups that are without deviations,” said Daniel Beck. “It benefits everyone, whether they are anyone who has left home without education or if they are masters.”

6,000 people were vaccinated at the Bloomsbury Clinic from mid-December to 87-year-old Joan Collins, a British actress famous for her role in “Dynasty”. But Beck said his major priority was trying to reduce the vaccine’s hesitation among racial and ethnic minorities, who have shown in polls that health officials have more distrust than whites of the vaccine’s support.

Abdul Mathalib, 85, a retired catering worker who had just received his shot, said they were concerned about the vaccine’s side effects, even years later. But Maithlieb said it was worth taking a risk, adding, “You have to take it, right?”

While some observers point to Britain’s higher tolerance for risk than the European Union, they attribute the success of the vaccination to the country’s strong scientific base, as well as the “good old-fashioned preparation”, by David Goodhart Said, this is one last book. , “The Road to Summer” traces Brexit-era Britain.

This was not, in any event, specific to the wider response of Britain.

Some foreign leaders have struggled with the Johnson-like epidemic. He largely skipped contact tracing and resisted applying lockdown, then ended up in an intensive care unit after contracting the virus.

But during those chaotic early days, his ministers went on to invest in vaccines and secured early contracts with manufacturers. He also appointed British venture capitalist Kate Bingham to head a government undertaking task force.

In March, the government provided the initial funding – £ 2.6 million or $ 3.5 million – to the Oxford research team. By May, when the vaccine was still in clinical trials, the UK entered into an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy tens of millions of doses three months ago to negotiate its purchase from the European Union.

After receiving the coronovirus vaccine, people are monitored for 15 minutes for possible side effects at Bloomsbury Surgery, London on Thursday 28 January 2021. (Andrew Testa / The New York Times)

Already flared with concerns about vaccine protectionism, British authorities were determined to make any domestic vaccine quickly and easily accessible to Britain. He spoke to the Oxford team, as he negotiated with Merck and other pharmaceutical companies to collectively produce and distribute the vaccine.

Oxford eventually struck a deal with AstraZeneca, headquartered in Cambridge.

John Bell, an Oxford professor and member of the government’s vaccine task force, said, “They made it clear to me and others that they wanted to know about the deal and they were concerned about vaccine nationalism Huh.” Health officer.

Two plants in England are now manufacturing the vaccine, and a firm in Wales is preparing it for distribution. The British government has stated that the bulk of its shipments of AstraZeneca vaccines come from the supply chain.

AstraZeneca has stated that its initial agreement with Britain helped to overcome inevitable manufacturing hiccups before starting vaccine manufacturing. Production problems at a Belgian plant prompted the company to announce that it would reduce its delivery in Europe by 60%, triggering cross-channel controversy.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said this week, with the UK, “We have three months of extra time to fix all the messes we have experienced.”

On Friday, EU drug regulators authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults, which was set last month by a UK regulator.

Meanwhile, Britain may soon get another vaccine.

NovaVax, a Gaithersburg-based biotechnology company in Maryland, reported on Friday that its vaccine has been shown to be 89.3% effective in a large-scale trial in the UK. The government has achieved 60 million doses, which will be produced at a plant in Northeast England. If British regulators approve it, the vaccine will be delivered in the second half of 2021.

All told, the British government has spent at least 11.7 billion pounds, or $ 16 billion, to develop, manufacture, buy and administer vaccines.

Christina Pagel, Professor of Operational Research at University College London, said, “Vaccination is something we have achieved correctly.

This does not mean that the rollout is done without stress. With more hospitals and more contagious changes through the country, the UK has conditioned more people to be given partial protection of one dose, rather than being given full protection of two doses quickly.

Doctors whose booster shots have been delayed have been angered by the approach, accusing the government of creating the subject of a risky new experiment, saying they worry that vaccines will be less effective. Immunologists have expressed concern that a country full of people with only partial immunity may breed vaccine-resistant mutations, while Pfizer said the strategy is not supported by data collected in clinical trials.

But the idea of ​​prioritizing the first shots has gained some traction, as countries grappling with increasing viruses and shortages in vaccine supplies have looked for ways to achieve partial protection in their populations.

For the suffering doctors at Bloomsbury Clinic, the biggest challenge is simply getting a steady supply of supplements.

“Our biggest problem is that we don’t know, week by week, the deliveries we’re doing,” Dr. Ammara Hughes, clinical director, said she eagerly scans her iPhone for news of next deliveries. “Logistics is difficult.”

© 2021 New York Times Company

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