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UK Covid cases break record with 55,892 recorded in 24hours – another 964 people have died – Express

Matt Hancock tells public ‘stay home unless you need to leave’

It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 2,488,780. An additional 964 people have also died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-1. This increases the total number of people to have died from coronavirus in the UK to 73,512.  The data from Wednesday had shown 50,023 new coronavirus infections and 981 deaths.

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Separately, figuers published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where coronavirus has been mentioned on the death certificate, along with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 89,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

Public Health England Medical Director Dr Yvonne Doyle warned it is “imperative we all take action now to protect our families and our friends”.

She appealed for people to continue to follow the guidance, especially with the clock ticking down to the start of 2021.

Dr Doyle said: “We know the overwhelming majority of deaths reported today are people who sadly passed away in just the last few days.

uk coronavirus cases deaths

A further 55,892 Covid cases have been recorded in the past 24 hours, with 964 additional deaths (Image: GETTY)

“Every life lost to this disease is a sadness.

“It is imperative we all take action now to protect our families and our friends.

“We have all had to make huge sacrifices this year, but please ensure that you keep your distance from others, wash your hands and wear a mask.

“A night in at New Year will mean you are significantly reducing your social contacts and can help stop the spread of the virus.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: School-goers pay tribute to ‘the best teacher’ – symptoms

covid tier 4

Millions more people have been hit by Tier 4 restrictions (Image: GETTY)

The Department of Health also revealed that nearly one million people in the UK had received a COVID-19 vaccine as of December 27.

A total of 944,539 people were given a first dose between December 9 and 27.

This includes 786,000 in England, 92,188 in Scotland, 35,335 in Wales and 31,016 in Northern Ireland.

More than three-quarters of England’s population were plunged into Tier 4 restrictions following the latest announcements from Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Wednesday.

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covid boris johnson

Boris Johnson urged the country to step up efforts in the fight against coronavirus (Image: GETTY)

covid matt hancock

Matt Hancock announced millions more people would face Tier 4 restrictions (Image: HOUSE OF COMMONS / PA)

Another 22 million people in parts of the North East, North West, South West and Midlands have been impacted.

It means a total of 44 million people or 78 percent of England’s population, are now in Tier 4.

This means non-essential shops, as well as gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers, have had to close until further notice.

People can also only meet one other person from another household in an outdoor public space, and cannot leave their Tier 4 area except for legally permitted reasons, such as medical appointments.

covid tier 4 areas

A number of new areas throughout England now face Tier 4 restrictions (Image: EXPRESS)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeated the nation must step up efforts in the fight against coronavirus.

He insisted “no-one regrets these measures more bitterly than I do” but warned “firm” action was needed to control the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the reopening of secondary schools in England would be delayed next month.

In some of the parts of the country hit hardest by coronavirus, primary school pupils will also not return to the classroom as planned next week.

Mr Williamson said students in exam years will return to secondary schools on January 11 – a week later than originally planned – while other secondary and college students will go back full-time on January 18.

Primary schools in 50 areas within London, Essex, Kent, East Sussex, Buckinghamshire, and Hertfordshire will remain closed for face-to-face teaching to all pupils as planned next week.

Children of key workers and vulnerable youngsters will however still be able to attend lessons in primary and secondary schools.

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The areas of Derbyshire now in tier 4 with the lowest infection rates – Derbyshire Live

All areas of Derbyshire were put into highest coronavirus Tier 4 restrictions by the Government on Wednesday – yet many areas of the county have some of the lowest infection rates in the country.

People living in towns and villages in Derbyshire Dales, such as Bakewell and Matlock, may well feel aggrieved that their non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms and pubs are closed.

While in some of the suburbs of Derby and in the Heanor and Ripley, areas where infections rates are well above average, there could be some justification for the tougher rules.

An online interactive map released and updated by the Government, highlights places where coronavirus is still prevalent, showing infection rates for each area.

The rate indicates how many people per 100,000 have contracted coronavirus, and the map also gives a total case number for the latest week recorded.

To help make sure you can continue to stay up-to-date with all your local news during the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve got a special offer to help you get your Derby Telegraph delivered straight to the door – and save 40% off the cost.

To sign up just follow this link and enter your details.

This means people are able to pinpoint exactly where the virus is spreading and also where infection rates are declining.

The most recently released data, covers a seven-day period, ending on Christmas Day.

In the seven days leading up to December 25, Bolsover North recorded just three positive cases of coronavirus and it was a similar story in Bakewell South, including Taddington and Youlgrave and also Allestree South.

There were four cases recorded in the same period in the Borowash and Ockbrook area of Erewash, seven cases in Matlock, seven in Clay Cross and eight in Ashbourne South, Breadsall, Little Eaton and Stanley Common and Allestree North.

All of these figures were well below the national average of 275 cases per 100,000 and across a wide range of areas.

Map showing the varied areas of coronavirus infection across Derbyshire. The light and dark green areas had the least positive cases, while the dark blue and dark red/purple had the most in the week up to Christmas day
(Image: data.gov.uk)

At the other end of the scale, Rose Hill in Derby recorded 48 positive cases, Littleover 34, Normanton West and Chellaston 25, boosting Derby’s overall cases to 249.5 per 100,000 population and a weekly rise of 817 new cases.

Amber Valley is currently the county’s Covid hot spot with 323.8 cases per 100,000 compared to Derbyshire Dales with 149.3 and High Peak with 138 per 100,000 people.

Within Amber Valley, the growth rate of infection is being fuelled by Heanor, which saw 47 positive cases in the week up to December 25, Swanwick and Leabrooks with 45 and Kilburn 38 cases.

Instead of subdividing counties into different tier restrictions, the Government has changed all the areas en masse within them since Tier 3 was introduced in early December.

In the current Tier 4, people are not allowed to leave home at all without a ‘reasonable excuse’.

This can include going to work, heading to the shop to buy food or medicine and taking children to school.

Figures for other areas in Derbyshire are as follows:

Chesterfield, 153 cases per 100,000 people

North East Derbyshire, 185 cases per 100,000 people

Bolsover, 207 cases per 100,000 people

Erewash, 167 cases per 100,000 people

South Derbyshire, 256 cases per 100,000 people

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Warning issued by top doctor as coronavirus cases surge in Inverclyde – Greenock Telegraph

A TOP doctor has warned New Year revellers in Inverclyde to stay in and stay safe this weekend amid growing concern over an increase in cases linked to the new variant of coronavirus.

Normally at this time of year, thousands of partygoers would be heading out on to the town and to house parties to celebrate New Year and the final weekend of the festive season.

But people are tonight being implored to obey the public health restrictions, stay home and save lives.

It comes as new figures released today show that the total number of positive tests in Inverclyde between December 22 and 28 was 173.

This gives a rate per 100k people of 222. Just two days ago the rate was sitting much lower at 162.

In an attempt to prevent an explosion of cases, people are being urged to follow the rules.

Dr Daniel Carter, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, said staying in this weekend was of critical importance.

Dr Carter said: “There are large increases in cases in Inverclyde and across the GGC area.

“This is due to people still mixing together and the new variant of the virus that spreads more easily.

“We urge everyone not to mix with anyone other than their own household at this time of such sharp increases in cases.”

The medic went on to remind people of the rules around mixing and socialising.

He said: “Social gatherings involving members of more than one household may not take place in people’s homes, and any that take place elsewhere are strictly limited to a maximum of six people from two households.

“Even then, it is vital that social distancing and other prevention measures are maintained throughout.

“Whilst these constraints are hard on everyone, they are there for a good reason – to protect you, your friends and your family.”

Earlier this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that the new variant – thought to spread much faster than the virus which first appeared in Scotland in the spring – was quickly becoming the dominant Covid strain, and said Scottish Government advice to stay home, save lives and protect the NHS was more important than ever.

Dr Carter added: “We are all painfully aware of the huge human cost that the virus has inflicted on the people in Inverclyde and across Scotland, and of all the important events which we have missed this year.

“With vaccination now being rolled out there really is some light at the end of the tunnel – but we are not there yet.

“Please keep that – and the safety of the most vulnerable in our society – in mind when you are deciding whether to go out or stay in this New Year.”

Dr Carter reminded people that, in addition to the current restrictions, the most effective way to keep us all safe from the virus was to follow the FACTS advice – wear a Face covering in enclosed spaces, Avoid crowded places, Clean hands and surfaces regularly, Two-metre distancing, and Self-isolate and seek a test immediately if you display symptoms.

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Why We Could Be Heading For A Third National Lockdown – HuffPost UK

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Hundreds more coronavirus cases recorded in Cumbria | News and Star – News & Star

THE number of recorded coronavirus cases in Cumbria increased by 411 in the last 24 hours, official figures show.

Public Health England (PHE) figures show that 14,259 people had been confirmed as testing positive for Covid-19 by 9am on Thursday (December 31) in Cumbria, up from 13,848 the same time on Wednesday.

The health body is now including Pillar 2 tests – those carried out by commercial partners – alongside Pillar 1 tests, which are analysed in NHS or PHE laboratories and which made up the first stage of the Government’s mass testing programme.

The rate of infection in Cumbria now stands at 2,852 cases per 100,000 people, far lower than the England average of 3,802.

Across the UK, the number of recorded cases increased by 55,892 over the period, to 2,488,780.

Cumbria’s cases were among the 368,447 recorded across the North West, a figure which rose by 4,746 over the period.

Cumulative case counts include patients who are currently unwell, have recovered and those that have died.

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The Sun calls on YOU to sign up for Britain’s vaccination volunteer force and help finally beat Covid – The Sun

THE Sun urges our fantastic readers today to join a “Jabs Army” of ­volunteers to help get millions of Brits vaccinated ­rapidly against Covid.

So many of us have longed to play a more active role in beating this terrible disease. Now, on this first day of a new year and a new era for Britain, we can.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

We're calling on Sun readers to help roll out the Covid vaccine, like the one by received by The Sun's Arthur Edwards

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We’re calling on Sun readers to help roll out the Covid vaccine, like the one by received by The Sun’s Arthur EdwardsCredit: Paul Edwards – The Sun
It's a new year and a new era for Britain - and it's time to beat coronavirus

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It’s a new year and a new era for Britain – and it’s time to beat coronavirus

Through this major Sun campaign, backed by the NHS and the Government, you can join 50,000 volunteers in a ­crucial job . . . helping to run pop-up medical centres designed to immunise 15 million people by March.

It is a vast logistical challenge which needs YOU, as a Steward Volunteer, to keep it running smoothly and safely.

This will be the year we conquer Covid. The Sun’s Jabs Army can play a key part.

Stars and health chiefs last night backed our call for Sun readers to join.



Match of the Day host Gary Lineker urged the nation: “Let’s all get together and roll up our sleeves to help everyone roll up their sleeves.

“The vaccine appears to be the only way out of this desperate situation.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means the light at the end of the Covid ­tunnel is burning brighter — but we need one last push to get back to normal by spring.

“The pandemic has shown the incredible spirit of the British people, and I urge anyone who can help to come forward and help the UK’s ­national vaccine effort.”

Arthur, 80, says the sticker he received with his jab 'meant as much as any medal'

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Arthur, 80, says the sticker he received with his jab ‘meant as much as any medal’Credit: Paul Edwards – The Sun
We are urging readers to volunteer as stewards at pop-up vaccination centres

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We are urging readers to volunteer as stewards at pop-up vaccination centresCredit: AP:Associated Press
The Government wants to see 15million people immunised by March

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The Government wants to see 15million people immunised by MarchCredit: AFP or licensors

The Sun has joined forces with the NHS and the Royal Voluntary Service to urge readers to volunteer as stewards at the pop-up vaccination centres across the UK.

And Sun stars, including columnists Jeremy Clarkson and Jane Moore, have pledged to do their bit.

Jeremy, 60, said: “Saying you won’t take the vaccine is like saying you won’t wear an aqualung when ­diving. It’s necessary and we should all do our part. I will.”

The Government wants to see 15million people immunised by March and local NHS teams will be setting up centres capable of administering thousands of jabs a week in sports halls, conference centres and stadiums.

But more than 50,000 Steward Volunteers will be needed via the NHS Volunteer Responder Programme to help them run smoothly and keep people safe.

Let’s roll up our sleeves…to help everyone roll up theirs!

Gary Lineker

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new “Jabs Army” of vax helpers will help consign killer Covid to the dustbin of history.

He told The Sun: “We all have a role to play in getting through this pandemic. The vaccine is our way out and back to normal life.”

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “The programme, the largest in NHS history, has got off to a great start.

How to sign up

VOLUNTEERS for the Jabs Army are being asked to first register online at nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk

You will then receive an email with log-in details to sign up online.

Finally, you will be asked to download the GoodSAM app on a smartphone which will match you to a role in your area.

Services will be opening in the coming days and weeks, with different areas up and running at different times, so you might not be required on site for some weeks. Not everyone who signs up will need to be called upon.

You need to commit to only two six-hour shifts a month at a vaccination service, and no prior experience or qualifications are required.

You will work as part of a team that will include NHS staff and volunteers. The Royal Voluntary Service will conduct appropriate background checks.

Go to nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk

PM Boris Johnson believes the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine 'means the light at the end of the tunnel'

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PM Boris Johnson believes the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine ‘means the light at the end of the tunnel’Credit: Crown Copyright

“But having an army of Sun readers standing ready to assist as we step up the delivery of vaccinations as more supplies come on stream in the weeks and months ahead is a welcome boost to the huge mobilisation that is under way to combat the resurgent virus.”

We have partnered with the Royal ­Voluntary Service which delivers the programme, along with the GoodSAM app, to support this massive national effort.

This is the NHS’s most ambitious scheme ever and now we can all do our bit.

Geri Halliwell

Stewards will form a key part of the Covid-19 vaccination team that will include NHS staff.

They will guide people on site to make sure the vaccination process runs as safely and efficiently as possible.

They will help ensure social ­distancing and identify people who need additional support.

You only need to commit to two six-hour shifts per month at a vaccination service near you and no prior experience or qualifications are required.

Spice Girl Geri Horner, 48, said: “This is the most ambitious programme ever seen in the NHS’s history — and by backing this brilliant campaign, we can all do our bit.

“The quicker we get this vaccine rolled out, the sooner life will be better for everyone.”

Health Sec Matt Hancock says the 'Jabs Army' will help consign Covid to the dustbin of history

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Health Sec Matt Hancock says the ‘Jabs Army’ will help consign Covid to the dustbin of historyCredit: PA:Press Association
NHS chief exec Sir Simon Stevens says having an army of Sun readers ready to help will be a 'welcome boost'

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NHS chief exec Sir Simon Stevens says having an army of Sun readers ready to help will be a ‘welcome boost’Credit: Getty

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive

THE NHS chief exec said: “The programme, the largest in NHS history, has got off to a great start.

“But having an army of Sun readers standing ready to assist as we step up the delivery of vaccinations as more supplies come on stream in the weeks and months ahead is a welcome boost.”

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary

MR Hancock said: “We all have a role to play in getting through this pandemic.

“The vaccine is our way out and back to normal life.

“I want to thank The Sun for launching this fantastic campaign and I urge Sun readers to join the Jabs Army.”

Good Morning Britain star Kate Garraway, 53 — whose husband Derek, also 53, is still in hospital with Covid — said: “At a pivotal point in time for the NHS, let’s all club together to do what we can to ensure this vaccination programme gets rolled out as efficiently and quickly as humanly possible.”

Her co-presenter Piers Morgan, 55, also called on Britain to “come together” and back our campaign.

He said: “This is a brilliant initiative by The Sun that I urge everyone to support — and if they can, sign up to participate.”

Saying you won’t take the jab is like refusing an aqualung when diving.

Jeremy Clarkson

Heavyweight boxing star Anthony Joshua, 31, declared: “If we volunteer to help out we can give Covid the knockout punch it deserves.

“Getting Britain fighting fit again is exactly what we need and The Sun’s campaign is vital in helping ensure that the rollout is as ­successful as it can be.”

‘THE ROAD TO FREEDOM’

Our rallying cry comes just days after the number of Brits plunged into Tier 4 lockdown hit 44million.

A successful vaccination programme is the key to letting friends and families hug again, pubs and restaurants reopen, and high streets get back up and running

Sun Editor-in-Chief Victoria Newton described the Jabs Army initiative as “one of the most important campaigns The Sun has ever run”.

Do your bit for freedom

By Arthur Edwards, Sun Royal Photographer

AS many readers will know, I was one of the first people in Britain to get the Covid jab.

And I have seen first-hand the important work that the Jab Army will be doing in the coming months.

The smiling faces of those volunteers really helped calm the nerves.

If you are an outgoing person with time to spare — doing six-hour shifts a couple of times a month — you can help give millions of people their freedom back.

As I left, one volunteer gave me a sticker to say I’d had the jab. To me, that little paper badge meant as much as any medal.

I have been given my old life back – and as a volunteer, you will be helping Britain get back to normal.

She said: “Never has the country needed our brilliant loyal readers more.

“I will be volunteering, along with other members of The Sun’s staff, ready to do what we can to help us on our road to freedom. No job is too big or too small.”

The “game changing” Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine was approved earlier this week.

Ministers have already ordered 100million doses of the miracle drug.

It will start going into people’s arms from Monday. Along with the 40million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, the UK now has enough on order to protect the entire population.



So far, 944,539 people across the UK have been vaccinated. In the past week 303,423 Brits have had the jab.

Government insiders said the programme will “ramp up” significantly this month.

Volunteer to give Covid the knockout punch it deserves.

Anthony Joshua

Last month big-hearted Sun readers signed-up to the NHS Volunteer Responder programme in their droves as part of our Christmas Together campaign.

The NHS scheme, delivered by the Royal Voluntary Service, called on people to make a “check-in-and-chat” call or run errands for a lonely and isolated person. Now the new steward role has been added.

Gary Lineker says 'the vaccine appears to be the only way out of this desperate situation'

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Gary Lineker says ‘the vaccine appears to be the only way out of this desperate situation’
Kate Garraway, whose husband is still in hospital with Covid, urges readers to 'club together to get this programme rolled out as quickly as possible'

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Kate Garraway, whose husband is still in hospital with Covid, urges readers to ‘club together to get this programme rolled out as quickly as possible’Credit: PA:Press Association
Piers Morgan backed our campaign, saying 'I urge everyone to support - and if they can, sign up and participate'

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Piers Morgan backed our campaign, saying ‘I urge everyone to support – and if they can, sign up and participate’Credit: PA:Press Association
Jeremy Clarkson says 'the vaccine is necessary and we should all do our part'

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Jeremy Clarkson says ‘the vaccine is necessary and we should all do our part’Credit: PA:Press Association

More than 1,500 registered with the service, including Sun readers, have answered the call to volunteer for the jab jobs.

Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service, said: “Anyone who steps forward as a Steward Volunteer will be helping to turn the tide on Covid-19.

“They will be part of an incredible team doing something of historic importance.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes news of Oxford University vaccine rollout

GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL exclusive@the-sun.co.uk

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WHO issues its first emergency use validation for a COVID-19 vaccine and emphasizes need for equitable global access – World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) today listed the Comirnaty COVID-19 mRNA vaccine for emergency use, making the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine the first to receive emergency validation from WHO since the outbreak began a year ago.

The WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL) opens the door for countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine. It also enables UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization to procure the vaccine for distribution to countries in need.

“This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines. But I want to emphasize the need for an even greater global effort to achieve enough vaccine supply to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. “WHO and our partners are working night and day to evaluate other vaccines that have reached safety and efficacy standards. We encourage even more developers to come forward for review and assessment. It’s vitally important that we secure the critical supply needed to serve all countries around the world and stem the pandemic.” 

Regulatory experts convened by WHO from around the world and WHO’s own teams reviewed the data on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s safety, efficacy and quality as part of a risk-versus-benefit analysis. The review found that the vaccine met the must-have criteria for safety and efficacy set out by WHO, and that the benefits of using the vaccine to address COVID-19 offset potential risks.

The vaccine is also under policy review.  WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) will convene on 5 January, 2021, to formulate vaccine specific policies and recommendations for this product’s use in populations, drawing from the SAGE population prioritization recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines in general, issued in September 2020.

The Comirnaty vaccine requires storage using an ultra-cold chain; it needs to be stored at -60°C to -90°C degrees. This requirement makes the vaccine more challenging to deploy in settings where ultra-cold chain equipment may not be available or reliably accessible. For that reason, WHO is working to support countries in assessing their delivery plans and preparing for use where possible.

How the emergency use listing works

The emergency use listing (EUL) procedure assesses the suitability of novel health products during public health emergencies. The objective is to make medicines, vaccines and diagnostics available as rapidly as possible to address the emergency while adhering to stringent criteria of safety, efficacy and quality. The assessment weighs the threat posed by the emergency as well as the benefit that would accrue from the use of the product against any potential risks.

The EUL pathway involves a rigorous assessment of late phase II and phase III clinical trial data as well as substantial additional data on safety, efficacy, quality and a risk management plan. These data are reviewed by independent experts and WHO teams who consider the current body of evidence on the vaccine under consideration, the plans for monitoring its use, and plans for further studies.

Experts from individual national authorities are invited to participate in the EUL review. Once a vaccine has been listed for WHO emergency use, WHO engages its regional regulatory networks and partners to inform national health authorities on the vaccine and its anticipated benefits based on data from clinical studies to date.

In addition to the global, regional, and country regulatory procedures for emergency use, each country undertakes a policy process to decide whether and in whom to use the vaccine, with prioritization specified for the earliest use.  Countries also undertake a vaccine readiness assessment which informs the vaccine deployment and introduction plan for the implementation of the vaccine under the EUL.

As part of the EUL process, the company producing the vaccine must commit to continue to generate data to enable full licensure and WHO prequalification of the vaccine. The WHO prequalification process will assess additional clinical data generated from vaccine trials and deployment on a rolling basis to ensure the vaccine meets the necessary standards of quality, safety and efficacy for broader availability.

More information: 

 

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Medics are worried about hospital plans to delay the second dose of the vaccines – Manchester Evening News

Hospitals are being urged to review the ‘bizarre’ plan to delay the second dose of Covid-19 vaccines that will leave many vulnerable staff members in limbo, a union has warned.

The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) said the recent decision to delay the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine to many hospital workers was ‘ill thought out’.

As the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was announced on Wednesday, a new dosing regimen was outlined, aimed at providing a speedier rollout.

Experts advising the Government, including the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said that the focus should be on giving at-risk people the first dose of whichever vaccine they receive, rather than providing the required two doses in as short a time as possible.

This now means the second dose of both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will be within 12 weeks of the first.

The vaccine programme has already started to be rolled out across the UK
(Image: PA)

HCSA general secretary Dr Paul Donaldson said: “While a planned and orderly deployment of the Oxford vaccination including longer timelines makes epidemiological sense, the decision to throw a spanner in the works of the existing Pfizer rollout appears simply bizarre unless there is an unknown hitch in supply.

“We are hearing that vulnerable hospital doctors at high risk from Covid have been told not to turn up for their second dose and therefore will not receive full protection.

“They are now left in limbo by a hastily formulated policy which seems extremely ill thought out.”

Dr Donaldson added that the “chaotic” approach was “creating huge anxiety on the ground” among staff ahead of the latest wave of the virus.

Other healthcare experts have said the move to delay administering second doses will cause huge problems for thousands of partially-vaccinated elderly and vulnerable people.

Chairman of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP committee, Dr Richard Vautrey, said: “It is grossly and patently unfair to tens of thousands of our most at-risk patients to now try to reschedule their appointments.

“The decision to ask GPs, at such short notice, to rebook patients for three months hence, will also cause huge logistical problems for almost all vaccination sites and practices.

“For example, to make contact with even just 2,000 elderly or vulnerable patients will take a team of five staff at a practice about a week, and that’s simply untenable.”

Dr Vautrey said the BMA would support practices which honour the existing appointments for the follow-up vaccination, calling for the Government to do the same.

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He added: “The Government must see that it’s only right that existing bookings for the oldest and most vulnerable members of our society are honoured, and it must also as soon as possible publish a scientifically-validated justification for its new approach.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “The MHRA, JCVI and UK Chief Medical Officers have updated the second dose timing guidance which the NHS has to follow, so as to increase the number of vulnerable people protected against Covid over the next three months, potentially saving thousands of lives.

“The NHS immediately informed GPs on the day the revised instruction was given, with extra financial and logistical support now being provided to help ensure thousands more receive the vaccine quickly.”

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School reopening decision too little too late says teaching union – Belfast Live

The Education Minister’s decision to delay face-to-face teaching in many of Northern Ireland’s schools has been branded ‘too little too late’.

Teachers have welcomed the move but say it should have been announced before Christmas.

Peter Weir announced on New Year’s Eve that there will be changes to the return schedule just days before schools were due to restart on January 4.

Primary school children are to be taught remotely for a week before returning to the classroom, while most secondary school pupils will be taught at home until the end of January.

Jacquie White from the Ulster Teachers’ Union

Jacquie White, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, said: “This decision could and should have been made before schools broke for the Christmas holidays.

“The Minister had the opportunity to provide support, reassurance and leadership to not only our educational community but also to every parent of school age children here as we face this latest stage of the pandemic. Instead we were met with disregard and disrespect.

“We welcome the fact that the Minister met with education unions this morning and we trust that this is indicative of his intention to engage in a meaningful fashion with the educational community moving forward as this latest decision is kept under review. 

“This does not change the fact that parents have once again at the eleventh hour been delivered up the added stress of changing and managing their arrangements to accommodate this decision,” she added.

“All along we’ve been told the Minister was following the science yet despite what was happening elsewhere in the UK regarding delayed school re-opening he repeatedly failed to show us the medical evidence for his insistence that a January 4 back to school date was going to work. 

“The Minister instead stressed that his priority of ensuring our most vulnerable children were supported was a key reason why all pupils should go back on Monday, but this has always been the case.

“Even with his last minute decision to delay re-opening generally, schools still remain open from January 5 for both vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

“Of course school is the best place for our pupils but not at any cost. A duty of care is owed both to the children in terms of their education but also to them – and crucially their teachers and school staff – in terms of their health and safety too. 

“Now the Minister has finally resolved to take this course of action we hope he will turn his attentions to vaccinations for the school population to ensure that roll-out is treated as a matter of urgency.”

Minister Weir was also criticised before Christmas for his eleventh hour announcement that schools would return in full on January 4 after concerns were raised about the growing number of coronavirus cases in classrooms.

NASUWT National Official Justin McCamphill said then: “It is incredulous that the Minister of Education has chosen to email school principals at 8pm on the last day of term to tell them that schools will be fully reopening in January with no more in the way of mitigations than the existing guidance around hand washing, ventilation, using protective bubbles combined with the already mixed messages on social distancing and face coverings.”

(Image: Justin McCamphill)

“It is an inevitability that education will be disrupted in January as students and staff test positive and colleagues need to self isolate.

“The Executive must take stronger action which puts the health, safety and welfare of children and the school workforce first in order to avoid a surge of Coronavirus cases in the New Year.”

Minister Weir announced the changes after the Northern Ireland Assembly was recalled to discuss planned reopening of schools today.

It followed a recall petition from the SDLP which passed the required 30 MLA signatures after receiving support from other parties including Sinn Féin, the Greens and People Before Profit.

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