Last week, the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.
Preparation by the MHRA began months before in June, with an independent expert working group working on safety considerations.
In September, laboratories were prepared for independent batch testing. Before any batch can reach the public, the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control checks that it is consistent with results for batches previously shown to be safe and effective.
From October, the MHRA began to receive submission of data on a rolling basis. This meant that a thorough analysis of the data had been made by November 23, when the final data submission was sent.
The MHRA process has been robust – and if Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer) says he’d recommend his own mum to get the vaccine, then we can take comfort that it will be safe!
This week, around 50 hospital hubs in England, including in Gloucestershire overseen by our superb local NHS professionals, will start offering the vaccine and GP practices will come together to operate local vaccination centres.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published its advice setting out the order of priority according to clinical need – starting with care home residents and their carers, the over 80s, and frontline health and social care workers.
GPs will be getting in touch with their at-risk patients to invite them to come forward for vaccination.
As more vaccine becomes available, the NHS will be extending that to many more groups of people in line with the JCVI recommendations.
The bulk of this vaccination programme - through this vaccine and, hopefully, others as well - is expected to take place in the period January through to April for the at-risk population.
To vaccinate everyone in the country will take some time, but once everyone vulnerable has been vaccinated, it is my view that no more restrictions should be necessary.
Finally, many students returned home in the ‘student travel window’ between 3-9 December. To ensure safe travel, the Government rolled out targeted community testing to universities – testing students before their departure.