Dr Nicola Brink was speaking following yesterday’s news that the UK was the first place in the world to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, paving the way for vaccination to start there from as early as next week.
Guernsey has put aside £5m. for a mass programme.
The jab, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, has been shown in studies to be 95% effective and works across all age groups.
While the UK has ordered 40 million doses, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, it is not yet clear when Guernsey will receive its supply.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered assurances that there will be more than enough doses from this and other vaccines for ‘everyone in the UK, the Crown Dependencies and our Overseas Territories’.
Dr Brink expected to see a proportionate amount distributed to the island compared to the UK’s allocation, but exact numbers have not yet been confirmed, nor has the delivery date.
That information, she hopes, will become available over the next few days.
Public Health has been identifying priority groups for who will receive the vaccine, and in what order.
‘That is essentially an age-based prioritisation together with healthcare workers,’ Dr Brink said.
Category one is people in care and residential homes, as well as people who work in those homes. Category two includes over-80s and frontline health and care workers. Categories go down to nine, which is the over-50s.
The Pfizer/BioNTech jab has to be stored at minus-70C, so the Public Health team needs to work out how this will be administered logistically.
‘As long as we can deliver the cold temperatures in an appropriate format, we will deliver in order of those priority groups,’ Dr Brink said.
The vaccine will come in packs of just over 900 and will need to be split to get them to people who need the vaccine.
With regard to the vaccine, there are only so many times it can be moved in and out of storage and maintain its effectiveness.
Also, once it comes out of the -70C temperature, it must be used within five days.
To those who had reservations or concerns about the safety of the vaccine, Dr Brink said the degree of scientific rigour that has gone into assessing the vaccine was huge.
‘It has been assessed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, as well as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.’
Strongly recommending the vaccine to elderly people, healthcare workers and vulnerable people, she stressed that its purpose was to protect the most vulnerable in the society from morbidity [getting seriously ill] and mortality [dying from Covid-19].
Not enough work has been done yet to see if it has any affect on transmission of the virus.
‘But this is really, really encouraging news – we can start seeing light at the end of the tunnel,’ she said.
‘This has been a very good day for us.’
Pregnant women or those planning to get pregnant are not being included in the vaccination programme.
‘This is purely based on caution because we are dealing with the use of a new vaccine,’ Dr Brink said.
‘There is no evidence to suggest that a problem would arise but unless they belong to an extremely vulnerable group, which would be discussed on a case-by-case basis, they are advised to wait until after their pregnancy to be vaccinated.’
Vaccine has to be approved for island use
GUERNSEY still needs to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use in the island.
The States changed the rules in August to allow a quick reaction.
Health & Social Care can designate a vaccine to be sold, supplied and administered in the Bailiwick for so long as it has a temporary authorisation issued under the Human Medicines Regulations 2012.
The Bailiwick also requires a Patient Group Directive, which is a legal exemption which allows registered health professionals, such as nurses, midwives and paramedics, to administer a medicine without it being prescribed in the usual manner.
The use of a PGD is common in matters such as the influenza vaccination programme.
In consultation with the States of Alderney and the government of Sark, Health & Social Care will now decide whether it will authorise the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus for use in the Bailiwick.