Oxford coronavirus vaccine: 10,000 medics and volunteers recruited to administer jab

An army of more than 10,000 medics and volunteers has been recruited by the NHS to help deliver the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, once it is given approval. 

By Lucy Fisher, Deputy Political Editor and Sarah Knapton, Science Editor www.telegraph.co.uk

The Telegraph has learned that teams are trained and ready to begin giving the jab at sports stadia and race courses across the country, with a target of vaccinating at least a million people each week. 

The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab could be approved early next week by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), after the final cut of data was submitted by the Government last Monday.

Officials have pinpointed January 4, 2021, as the date the rollout of the mass vaccination programme will begin.  

A Government source said: “At the moment, we are operationalising everything for the 4 January for the first Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs in arms. You’ll see it everywhere, while we’ll also be carrying on with Pfizer.”  

The source added: “Tens of thousands of vaccinators and support staff have been recruited.”

They are expected to be delivering at least a million jabs a week to the vulnerable by the middle of next month, once manufacturing has been scaled up.

Village halls, community centres and other local sites overseen by GPs will be used to administer the vaccine alongside vast regional hubs.

The Telegraph can also reveal that ministers are looking at proposals to triple the length of the time between taking a first and second dose of a vaccine in order to speed up the delivery of the vaccine before Easter.

It comes as frontline NHS workers have been told they will soon receive the Oxford vaccine, and amid calls for teachers to be prioritised alongside health workers for the jab to help keep schools open. 

The head of AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot, has also revealed the company has come up with a “winning formula” which has boosted the effectiveness of the jab so that it matches the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 

Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford jab, with 40 million expected to be available by the end of March. Manufacturing is due to scale up significantly from the second half of January. 

The ease of delivering the vaccine, compared with the complicated cold chain required for the Pfizer jab, and low cost mean its approval is viewed as a game-changing development in Westminster.

The rollout of the Oxford jab is a core element of the Government’s exit strategy from tough lockdown measures, as concerns grow over the damage to the economy wrought by keeping whole sectors shut.

Ministers are aiming for all vulnerable Britons included in its priority list of nine vulnerable groups, which cover around a quarter of the population, to receive a first dose of the jab by the end of February, and a second dose by the end of March.

Once this feat is achieved, mortality from the illness will be reduced by up to 99 per cent.

It is hoped the tougher lockdown restrictions can be lifted at that point.

At present, 43 per cent of the population is living under Tier 4 restrictions, which require Britons to stay at home and the hospitality industry and non-essential retail to close, after emergency measures were implemented on Boxing Day ahead of the fortnightly review scheduled for December 30. 

Ministers will still meet on Wednesday to review the latest data, with a series of other areas set to be plunged into Tier 4. Burnley, Cumbria and Lincoln are thought to be at risk of moving into the toughest tier.

On Sunday night senior doctors warned the NHS is in danger of being overwhelmed, as the number of coronavirus patients in hospital is about to exceed the peak of the first wave.

Former Tory party leader Lord Hague of Richmond last week warned the Prime Minister to undertake “a national mobilisation of resources on a scale never before seen outside of war” to accelerate the vaccine rollout in the face of the new hyper-infectious mutant strain of Covid-19.

Government insiders have credited Minister for the Vaccine Rollout, Nadhim Zahawi, UK vaccine taskforce chief Kate Bingham, and St John Ambulance, for scaling up infrastructure and personnel ready for the rollout next month.

A high proportion have been recruited by St John Ambulance, which reached out to its network of 25,000 volunteers, while also partnering with the Royal Voluntary Service, British Red Cross and other charities. 

Ministers have a target of enlisting 10,000 vaccinators, 14,350 care volunteers to observe people after they have received the jab, and 6,150 patient advocates to welcome and process people arriving at centres.

Retired doctors and nurses, pharmacists and trained first aiders have been drafted in to administer jabs, while other members of the public have signed up as support staff.

A Government source also revealed that ministers are looking at proposals to triple the length of the delay between taking a first and second dose of a vaccine in order to give millions more a single dose more quickly, while waiting for more deliveries of doses.

Proposals to offer Britons only a single dose have been shelved, but ministers are examining the idea of extending the time between doses from between three and four weeks to around 12 weeks.

A Government source said: “Everyone will get two doses, nobody will only get a half dose, but it could be a longer period, up to 12 weeks, between jabs. You could get a better impact.

“The MHRA will look at this stuff and decide what’s the best thing to do to get the most effective vaccination programme in the fastest, safest way possible.”

However, the insider added that a longer delay between doses would become redundant once sufficient quantities of the jab became available, saying: “We’re getting the volume coming now with Oxford/AstraZeneca, so it could become academic.”

The Pfizer results were based on a regime of two doses 21 days apart, while the Oxford vaccine was given 28 days apart. 

The MHRA determines the dosing regime based on submitted evidence, so moving to a single dose, or a delayed second dose regime, would be experimental and could leave the government liable to legal action. 

While those waiting longer for a jab would not be disadvantaged in the long term, they would be more at risk in the delay period before the second injection.

However, the Government could decide to initiate a clinical trial within the general rollout and monitor the efficacy of a delayed second jab among consenting participants.

Previous studies of vaccines have shown that delaying a second dose does not usually result in reduced long-term efficacy. 

Results from the Pfizer trials show that after dose one an efficacy of around 80 per cent was achieved, and this is unlikely to decline over time. 

Cramped housing has helped fuel spread of Covid in England – study

Overcrowded housing has helped to spread Covid-19 in England and may have increased the number of deaths, according to research by the Health Foundation.

Denis Campbell www.theguardian.com

People living in cramped conditions have been more exposed to the coronavirus and were less able to reduce their risk of infection because their homes were so small, the thinktank found. Overcrowding was a key reason why poorer people and those from ethnic minority backgrounds in particular had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, it said.

Health Foundation researchers also concluded that overcrowding, together with other housing problems such as damp and insecure tenancies, had led to a rise in physical and mental health ailments.

“Since March many of us have spent a lot more time at home. For many, the quality of their home has made their experience of the pandemic even worse than it needed to be,” said Adam Tinson, a co-author of the analysis and a senior analyst at the thinktank.

“While some have weathered lockdown in large homes with gardens and plenty of living space, others have struggled in overcrowded and unsafe conditions. Overcrowding is associated with the spread of Covid-19, making self-isolation more difficult and allowing the virus to spread through more people if one becomes infected.”

Data for 2019-20 released earlier this month showed that just before the pandemic hit in March, 830,000 households in England were overcrowded, especially rented properties. That was 200,000 more than the number in that situation a decade earlier.

“People’s housing environments have affected their ability to shield themselves and others from Covid-19. People have been encouraged to stay in their homes as much as possible, but within-household transmission has played a serious role in the spread of the virus,” the analysis says.

“Overcrowding, which has been increasing in the years prior to the pandemic, makes it harder to self-isolate and shield, and may have contributed to higher death rates in poorer areas.”

He added that 8% of households with the lowest income lived in overcrowded homes, compared with fewer than 1% of those with the highest earnings.

Similarly, “Ethnic minority households are five times more likely to be overcrowded than white households, illustrating just one of the ways in which existing housing disparities are combining with the pandemic to further widen inequalities in health.”

People being forced to spend more time in overcrowded homes during this year’s various lockdowns has also caused or worsened mental health problems, especially those suffering distress. “Distress is generally higher for overcrowded households, and data from the pandemic period seem to show this intensifying during the more severe lockdown in April 2020, when 39% of people in overcrowded households were indicating psychological distress”, compared with 29% of those whose homes were not overcrowded, the analysis concludes.

“This analysis shows that mental ill-health has been a particular issue for those in overcrowded households during the pandemic, especially in the first lockdown. The chronic lack of affordable housing options, combined with years of reductions in support for housing costs, have led us to this point,” said Tinson.

The restrictions on movement and social mixing had also deepened loneliness among those living alone, the report said.

Major changes to housing policy, such as more secure private tenancies, reversing cuts to housing benefit and building more social housing, are needed to reduce the impact of poor-quality homes on people’s health, the Health Foundation recommends.

Beds aren’t the problem. It’s the shortage of doctors and nurses

Hospitals have been ordered to mobilise their “surge capacity” over new year as they face a triple whammy of soaring infections, rising staff sickness and longer patient stays.

Andrew Gregory, Health Editor www.thetimes.co.uk

Doctors are bracing themselves for a spike in admissions — already at their highest level since mid-April — over the next fortnight after cases increased by 57% last week.

The threat was underlined in a leaked letter to hundreds of local NHS bosses on Wednesday from the service’s chief operating officer, Amanda Pritchard. In the six-page memo on NHS winter priorities, she ordered trusts “to safely mobilise all of their available surge capacity over the coming weeks”. She added: “This should include maximising use of the independent sector, providing mutual aid, making use of specialist hospitals and hubs to protect urgent cancer and elective activity, and planning for use of funded additional facilities such as the Nightingale hospitals, Seacole services and other community capacity.”

However, there are concerns about how extra facilities such as the seven Nightingale hospitals in England could be used because of the lack of staff. Thousands of NHS staff were already off last week with mounting numbers infected or self-isolating.

“Remember that we were more than 80,000 staff short even before the pandemic took hold,” said Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts. “It’s clear we are now embarking on the most testing time in the history of the health service.”

Hospital capacity was a problem before the coronavirus hit. The NHS has among the lowest per capita numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital beds in the western world.

A King’s Fund analysis of data from 21 countries, collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), found the UK had the third-fewest doctors among the 21 nations, with just 2.8 per 1,000 people, barely half the number in Austria, which has 5.1 doctors per 1,000.

The UK also had the sixth-fewest nurses for its population: 7.9 per 1,000 people — way behind Switzerland, which has the most, at 18 nurses. As for hospital beds, the UK has just 2.6 for every 1,000 people, less than a third of the number in Germany, which has the most — 8.1 beds — and leaves the UK 18th overall out of the 21 countries for which the OECD gathered figures.

“The pressure on beds is growing,” Cordery said. “The overall bed base is down by 11,000 because of social distancing measures, and the number occupied by Covid-19 patients is rising relentlessly. Trust leaders tell us it’s proving very difficult to discharge Covid-positive patients once they are medically fit to leave because of the need to find safe, suitable care.”

The staffing and beds crisis is being compounded by an emerging trend of Covid patients spending longer in hospital. Improvements in care coupled with the advent of new drugs and treatments means many who might have died in the first wave of the pandemic are now surviving — but taking up vital beds.

Those fighting for their lives in hospitals now are also slightly younger and healthier to start with. While Covid case rates have increased across all age groups, the highest rate of 434.6 infections per 100,000 population is for those aged between 30 and 39.

While the prospect of more people surviving after being taken to hospital with the coronavirus is a welcome one, it has implications for hospital capacity. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association, said the NHS was “in a very precarious position” and in danger of becoming completely overwhelmed. Britain would usually see about 1,000 new respiratory-related admissions a day at this time of year. It is already close to double that for the coronavirus alone.

“We must not be under any illusion of the serious state the NHS is in and the impact that will soon have on patients, not just with Covid, but a whole host of other serious illnesses at this time,” Nagpaul added.

The NHS had made great strides over the summer to catch up on delayed treatment and resume routine operations. But officials privately admit those efforts have been derailed by Covid for months.

Some hospitals are now having to cancel some planned surgery in January and February. In addition to the coronavirus crisis, next year could bring with it the longest NHS waiting times for decades.

Nagpaul said the NHS was in “desperate need” of more staff and had been for years before the pandemic hit.

But with the training of more doctors and nurses likely to take years, medics say that in the meantime all NHS staff must be vaccinated to slash the risk of them getting ill with coronavirus.

“Without a universal policy to vaccinate frontline patient-facing staff as a priority, we could be facing avoidable staff sickness and absence over the already difficult winter months,” said Dr Zainab Najim, of the Doctors’ Association UK. “We call on Matt Hancock to act on this immediately and prevent what will be a potential disaster this winter.”

Seven major plans that will transform Devon in 2021

Works to transform Devon’s landscape and skylines have been rocked by the pandemic, like almost everything else.

But 2021 could hopefully be a better year than 2020 – with plenty of landscaping changing developments set to be completed across Devon.

Hmmmm! – Owl

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

Devonlive has taken a look into some of the more exciting projects that we can look forward to hopefully opening next year and by the end of 2021.

ST SIDWELL’S POINT

Exeter’s new state-of-the-art new leisure centre is set to open in the Summer of 2021.

Work on the St Sidwell’s Point development continues to take place and the structure rising above the hoarding line and the striking curve of the building is starting to take shape.

CGI image of the new St Sidwell's Point leisure centre

CGI image of the new St Sidwell’s Point leisure centre

The £44m passivhaus leisure centre is set to open in the Summer of 2021, and Exeter City Council have released the video showing what it will look like when construction is complete.

St Sidwell’s Point will replace the city’s aging Pyramids swimming pool, and the water quality in the new pool is expected to be better than at any other swimming pool in the country. A special filtration system will mean there will be minimal chemical content.

Built to healthy building and super energy efficient Passivhaus standards, St Sidwell’s Point will include:

  • Main swimming pool and learner pool with moveable floors
  • Confidence pool for young children
  • Spectator seated area
  • Café
  • Health suite, spin studio and two fitness studios
  • Gym
  • Spa facility
  • Children’s soft play area

EXMOUTH WATERSPORTS CENTRE

Exmouth’s new Sideshore development will be open by the Summer of 2021.

The watersports centre on Exmouth seafront was due to open this summer but has been delayed due to Covid-19. Work has been continuing on the site and a date for when it will all be open is yet to be confirmed.

However, local developer Grenadier has indicated it will be a phased opening which has begun with local operator Edge Watersports opening first. It is being run by four times world champion kitesurfer Steph Bridge.

New aerial pictures of Exmouth’s Sideshore development (Image: TIM PESTRIDGE PHOTOGRAPHY)

As well as offering a watersports centre, the development will include a casual seafront bar, restaurant and café run by Exeter celebrity chef Michael Caines.

The Mickeys Beach Bar and Restaurant alongside Sylvain Peltier and Michael’s Café Patisserie Glacerie – will open in March 2021.

The project will incorporate a casual bar complete with resident weekend DJs, first floor destination restaurant with a glasshouse and outdoor terraces alongside neighbouring Café Patisserie Glacerie which will serve serve artisan pastries and ice-creams.

OKEHAMPTON RAILWAY LINE

Regular Okehampton to Exeter passenger services were withdrawn on June 5, 1972, although since 1997 a limited service has run between Okehampton and Exeter on Sundays during the summer.

But a regular passenger rail service between Okehampton and Exeter is returning, the Government has confirmed.

The reopening of the line between Okehampton and Exeter was included in the Government Comprehensive Spending Review and the National Infrastructure Strategy.

Central Devon MP Mel Stride has said that he hopes to get the service up and running as soon as possible, with a hope being that by the end of 2021, passenger trains will be running.

SANDY PARK HOTEL

Work has begun on the new multi-million pound Sandy Park Hotel in Exeter which when open in December 2021 will be the ‘biggest commercial hotel this side of Bristol’.

The state-of-the-art hotel is the next stage in the development plans of Exeter’s award-winning Sandy Park complex, which is home to Gallagher Premiership Rugby club Exeter Chiefs, and the region’s premier Conference & Banqueting venue.

Once built, the eight-storey, L-shaped, £30m hotel will feature leisure facilities on the ground floor and a restaurant on the top floor, and be a Marriott Courtyard hotel.

In addition to housing 250 bedrooms, the hotel situated off Old Rydon Lane will provide leisure facilities on the ground floor, as well as a rooftop cocktail bar and restaurant that boasts picturesque views along the River Exe Estuary.

Coming under the worldwide Courtyard by Marriott brand, the four-star facility will also boast a glazed bridge link to Sandy Park, as well as an extensive reception area, open plan bar, coffee bar and lounge.

Artist impression of the new Sandy Park Hotel plans

Artist impression of the new Sandy Park Hotel plans

Access to the hotel be via a purpose built footbridge from the existing stadium complex, and it will include a unique, rooftop glazed restaurant for 172 covers on the ninth floor of the hotel.

The rooftop restaurant is described as ‘one of its kind for the area’ and will provide a ‘unique dining experience for guests and visitors’, while the basement of the hotel would provide spa and fitness facilities, including a sauna, steam room and gymnasium.

MARSH BARTON RAILWAY STATION

There is hope that by the end of 2021, trains will finally be stopping at Marsh Barton railway station – five years after they initially should have been.

The planning application for the construction of a new two platform railway station to serve the Marsh Barton Industrial Estate has this week has been approved Devon County Council planners under delegated powers.

As well as the station, the scheme for Clapperbrook Lane East, contains a new cycle way embankment and footbridge, to link the station to, and provide a dedicated pedestrian and cycle way.

Artist impression of the new Marsh Barton railway station

Artist impression of the new Marsh Barton railway station

Funding has been secured to cover the current project estimate cost, excluding contingency, and Devon County Council’s cabinet will now meet early in 2021 to discuss, finalise and sign-off on committing the cash towards the build of the station.

No details yet have been revealed as to when the work will begin and when the station will see trains stop, but when the application was submitted in July, it was hoped that the station will be open by the end of 2021.

The delivery of the station has been a long-term aspiration for Devon County Council and forms part of the Devon Metro project, which encompasses a range of rail infrastructure improvements in the Exeter area, with the scheme for Marsh Barton station aimed to provide sustainable access to employment, retail and leisure opportunities.

The proposed station will have two platforms, with the eastern and western platforms served by trains to Newton Abbot and Exeter, respectively. Each platform will be 124 metres in length, sufficient to accommodate trains formed of up to 5 cars, and will be 4m wide.

Each platform will have a waiting shelter, 10m wide by 1.5m deep, containing 12 stainless steel seats with arm rests, and a perch rail for four passengers, as well as one ticket vending machine on each platform, located inside the waiting shelters.

Two help points will be provided on each platform, one adjacent to the waiting shelter, and one in the emergency refuge area, while in addition to the help points, there will also be ‘next train indicators’ on each platform, providing audio and visual information regarding services.

Vehicular access to the station will be from Clapperbrook Lane East, with a new access road meeting the existing road at a junction on the eastern edge of the side, with access to the station for pedestrians and cyclists will be via paths which connect to the new footway/cycleway.

No parking spaces will be provided for general use, as it is expected the station will primarily serve as a destination, and it is intended to encourage use of sustainable modes of transport.

NORTHAM BURROWS

Plans for improved visitor centre at Northam Burrows have been given the go-ahead and will be completed in time for the 201 season.

Torridge District Council will refurbish the existing centre at the country park and build a new single-storey cafe and toilet block with outdoor seating.

The current centre, built in 1985, will be refurbished, see an ‘enhanced exhibition space’ which can be expanded into an education and meeting room used by schools and groups.

A cafe and toilet block will sit opposite and will be manufactured off-site before being delivered to the burrows in time for the 2021 season.

NORTH DEVON LINK ROAD

While not complete, major construction work will have begun in 2021 for the biggest transport investment in North Devon for a generation” after the Department of Transport has signed off on the major improvements to the North Devon Link Road.

The major project, being led by Devon County Council, will boost the local economy by supporting plans for 6,700 new homes in the region, making it easier for people to access job opportunities, and for businesses to get around.

The works will focus on a 7.5km stretch between South Molton and Barnstaple and the route will be modernised with a wider carriageway, which will greatly improve overtaking opportunities, safety and resilience.

The road’s capacity and eight key junctions will be upgraded – and to boost active travel, facilities for pedestrians and cyclists will be introduced along the route.

The main work is slated to start in November 2020, with major construction work would likely begin in 2021, and last for around two years.

Advance planting along the 10km length of the scheme between Filleigh and Portmore has been already been completed, with the scheme’s planting programme involves the planting of over 20,000 trees and bushes to establish ecological habitats before the start of construction work and further replacement of trees and bushes which will be removed.

North Devon Link Road

North Devon Link Road (Image: Lewis Clarke)

Approximately seven kilometres of “alternating overtaking” lanes to the road between Portmore to Landkey (1km), Landkey to Swimbridge (2km) and Swimbridge to Filleigh Cutting (4km) will be added, with them monitored by average speed cameras, which Devon County Council says will provide “more reliable journey times, less accidents and greater resilience”.

Eight junctions will be improved, while a pedestrian/cycle subway to enable safe passage across the A361 at Bishop’s Tawton, with a spiralling bridge to allow the safe crossing of pedestrians and cyclists from Landkey village and a proposed new housing development at Westacott.

The objectives of the scheme are to reduce journey times, improve highway safety through reducing the rate of fatal and serious accidents and improving network resilience through reducing the effects of accidents and incidents on the road.