UK approves Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine; rollout begins next week

Freezers needed for vaccine en route to Cayman

By Reshma Ragoonath – December 2, 2020

The UK has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, becoming the first country in the world to approve a vaccine for its population in the fight against COVID-19.

The BBC reported early Wednesday morning that Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the vaccine is safe to be rolled out. It offers up to 95% protection against COVID-19 illness.

Cayman’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee welcomed the announcement in an early morning tweet, saying, “Great news that the UK has licensed the first Covid-19 vaccine.”

He told the Cayman Compass, “I think the whole world is excited that vaccines are now becoming available to help us work our way out of this pandemic. There are still difficult times ahead, especially for countries struggling with rising infection rates, but as we begin to get our most vulnerable vaccinated, so too will we begin to feel more relaxed. The government has been working on its vaccination plans and will share these soon.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week said Overseas Territories like Cayman will benefit from Britain’s purchase of vaccines.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking with the BBC on Wednesday, said the first 800,000 doses will be available in the UK from next week. The bulk of the rollout will come next year.

He said people should wait to be contacted by the National Health Services.

“I’m confident now, with the news today, that from spring, from Easter onwards, things are going to be better. And we’re going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy,” Hancock told the BBC.

Johnson also told the BBC, “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, according to CNN, hailed the emergency authorisation as “a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19”.The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the US and German companies’ collaborative vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 20 million people, CNN reported.

The BBC reported that elderly people in care homes and care home staff will be the priority, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.

It said, “because of the limited stocks and need to store at -70C, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place at hospitals so care home residents may not be immunised until later”.

Meanwhile, here in Cayman, freezers needed to store COVID-19 vaccines are en route to the islands.

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement of the UK’s approval of the vaccine, Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez said he expected COVID immunisation doses to begin arriving a few weeks after the vaccine had been formally approved.

Williams-Rodriguez, speaking on the Cayman Compass talk show The Resh Hour last week, said the Health Services Authority has already started preparations to receive the vaccine and is finalising a distribution plan.

The main vaccines in contention worldwide have different storage requirements, with the one from Pfizer/BioNTech needing to be kept at -75 degrees Celsius (-103 degrees Fahrenheit), and the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines maintained at between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

The vaccine Cayman is going to get, Williams-Rodriguez said, is more likely going to be one that needs to be stored at -75 Celsius.

Williams-Rodriguez added in an email to the Compass on Tuesday that the HSA is “in conversations with Public Health England regarding the type of COVID vaccine to be received, once approval is given by the relevant authorities in the UK”.

Williams-Rodriguez confirmed that the HSA has ordered three freezers that are able to store vaccines at -80C, and expects the equipment to arrive in the Cayman Islands in about a week, saying “there are no concerns with our storage capacity”.

He said he anticipated vaccine doses to arrive in Cayman by the end of December or early January.

“This vaccine has gone through all the safety protocols by international organisations, so we feel that these vaccines are safe, and they will be used for all those persons that are at risk,” Williams-Rodriguez said.

The vaccine will be distributed free to the public, he said, adding it will not be mandatory.

“It will be strongly recommended, especially if you have a chronic condition and you’re a high-risk person, or you have a family member in the household who is high risk; it is strongly recommended that person [receives] the vaccine,” he said.

Williams-Rodriguez expressed confidence in the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, saying he and his family will be taking it.

“We’ve got to be prepared once the vaccine gets here that we will have everything in place, all the necessary arrangements that are needed, and we will have a plan ready to go that we can start vaccinating,” he said.

On Monday, The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, of which the UK has secured 40 million doses, is set for regulatory approval within days which could allow hospitals to start immunising frontline health workers as soon as 7 Dec.

“The government has secured 100 [million] doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and has asked the regulator to assess it for emergency deployment,” the report in The Guardian said. “A further 2 [million] doses of the US Moderna vaccine have also been ordered, bringing its total to 7 [million] for the UK. All three vaccines involve two doses received several weeks apart.”

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Freezers needed for vaccine en route to Cayman

By Reshma Ragoonath – December 2, 2020

The UK has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, becoming the first country in the world to approve a vaccine for its population in the fight against COVID-19.

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The BBC reported early Wednesday morning that Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the vaccine is safe to be rolled out. It offers up to 95% protection against COVID-19 illness.

Cayman’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee welcomed the announcement in an early morning tweet, saying, “Great news that the UK has licensed the first Covid-19 vaccine.”

He told the Cayman Compass, “I think the whole world is excited that vaccines are now becoming available to help us work our way out of this pandemic. There are still difficult times ahead, especially for countries struggling with rising infection rates, but as we begin to get our most vulnerable vaccinated, so too will we begin to feel more relaxed. The government has been working on its vaccination plans and will share these soon.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week said Overseas Territories like Cayman will benefit from Britain’s purchase of vaccines.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking with the BBC on Wednesday, said the first 800,000 doses will be available in the UK from next week. The bulk of the rollout will come next year.

He said people should wait to be contacted by the National Health Services.

“I’m confident now, with the news today, that from spring, from Easter onwards, things are going to be better. And we’re going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy,” Hancock told the BBC.

Johnson also told the BBC, “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, according to CNN, hailed the emergency authorisation as “a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19”.The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the US and German companies’ collaborative vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 20 million people, CNN reported.

The BBC reported that elderly people in care homes and care home staff will be the priority, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.

It said, “because of the limited stocks and need to store at -70C, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place at hospitals so care home residents may not be immunised until later”.

Meanwhile, here in Cayman, freezers needed to store COVID-19 vaccines are en route to the islands.

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement of the UK’s approval of the vaccine, Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez said he expected COVID immunisation doses to begin arriving a few weeks after the vaccine had been formally approved.

Williams-Rodriguez, speaking on the Cayman Compass talk show The Resh Hour last week, said the Health Services Authority has already started preparations to receive the vaccine and is finalising a distribution plan.

The main vaccines in contention worldwide have different storage requirements, with the one from Pfizer/BioNTech needing to be kept at -75 degrees Celsius (-103 degrees Fahrenheit), and the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines maintained at between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

The vaccine Cayman is going to get, Williams-Rodriguez said, is more likely going to be one that needs to be stored at -75 Celsius.

Williams-Rodriguez added in an email to the Compass on Tuesday that the HSA is “in conversations with Public Health England regarding the type of COVID vaccine to be received, once approval is given by the relevant authorities in the UK”.

Williams-Rodriguez confirmed that the HSA has ordered three freezers that are able to store vaccines at -80C, and expects the equipment to arrive in the Cayman Islands in about a week, saying “there are no concerns with our storage capacity”.

He said he anticipated vaccine doses to arrive in Cayman by the end of December or early January.

“This vaccine has gone through all the safety protocols by international organisations, so we feel that these vaccines are safe, and they will be used for all those persons that are at risk,” Williams-Rodriguez said.

The vaccine will be distributed free to the public, he said, adding it will not be mandatory.

“It will be strongly recommended, especially if you have a chronic condition and you’re a high-risk person, or you have a family member in the household who is high risk; it is strongly recommended that person [receives] the vaccine,” he said.

Williams-Rodriguez expressed confidence in the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, saying he and his family will be taking it.

“We’ve got to be prepared once the vaccine gets here that we will have everything in place, all the necessary arrangements that are needed, and we will have a plan ready to go that we can start vaccinating,” he said.

On Monday, The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, of which the UK has secured 40 million doses, is set for regulatory approval within days which could allow hospitals to start immunising frontline health workers as soon as 7 Dec.

“The government has secured 100 [million] doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and has asked the regulator to assess it for emergency deployment,” the report in The Guardian said. “A further 2 [million] doses of the US Moderna vaccine have also been ordered, bringing its total to 7 [million] for the UK. All three vaccines involve two doses received several weeks apart.”