UK to face delay in delivery of Pfizer vaccine

The UK is among several countries facing delays in delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine due to upgrades in its production capacity, the company has said.

Nadeem Badshah

The US pharmaceutical firm is increasing production at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, in an effort to produce more doses than originally planned for 2021, temporarily reducing deliveries to all European countries.

Shipments of the vaccine, produced in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, to the UK are set to be affected this month.

The UK has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

A government spokesperson said: “We are in the process of understanding the implications of Pfizer’s announcement today to our plans. However we continue to plan to hit our target of vaccinating all four priority groups by 15 February.”

The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is also licensed and being used in the UK.

European governments have said the credibility of their vaccination programmes are at risk due to Pfizer’s decision.

“This situation is unacceptable,” the health and social affairs ministers of six EU states – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – said in a letter to the EU commission.

“Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”

Germany, Europe’s largest purchaser of the vaccine, said that it regretted the “unexpected and … very short notice” announcement as the company had promised “binding delivery dates” until the middle of next month.

Norway and Lithuania had earlier said that the pharmaceutical company was reducing supplies across Europe.

“What we want is for Pfizer-BioNTech to restore their deliveries to the agreed schedule,” Lithuanian health minister Arunas Dulkys told Reuters.

A Pfizer spokesperson said: “We understand a change to deliveries has the potential to create uncertainty.

“However, we can confirm the overall projected volumes of delivery to the UK remain the same for quarter one (January to March).

“We continue to liaise with the UK Government and the Vaccines Taskforce to work through short-term impact of these changes to our January deliveries and support the goals of the UK Covid-19 vaccination programme.”

Boris Johnson said on Friday that the UK has vaccinated more than 3.2 million, with almost 45% of over-80s and 40% of care home residents receiving doses so far.

PA Media contributed to this report.

Covid: About 20% of Devon cases in care homes

About 20% of all Covid-19 cases in Devon in the last week have been in care homes, the county’s director of public health has said.

BBC News

Steve Brown said there had been some “significant outbreaks” with up to 80% of residents or staff in some homes testing positive.

He said some of those were asymptomatic and others had symptoms and were in hospital.

Mr Brown also urged people to follow lockdown restrictions.

‘Chain of transmission’

At a Team Devon Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting, Mr Brown, said: “We are seeing increasing outbreaks in care homes and have had some significant outbreaks with 70 or 80% of residents or staff testing positive.

“It is important to re-emphasise the stay at home message unless it is essential to go out.

“Every time you leave the front door, you risk coming into contact with someone who may have Covid and could be a crucial link in the chain of transmission.”

Simon Chant, public health specialist, said that while Devon’s case rates were at the highest they had been, they were still only a third of the rate of the national average.

Mr Chant said there were some positive signs that growth in cases was slowing.

“But we have seen a big increase in the 80+ cohort where there is a greater likelihood of hospitalisation and more severe outcomes for the age group, and we are seeing outbreaks in care homes again.”

Across the county, between 2 and 8 January, people aged 80 and over had an infection rate of 396 per 100,000 population, the highest of any age range, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Break lockdown rules: “end up in a police cell”

People who break lockdown restrictions risk catching Covid-19 and dying, Devon and Cornwall’s chief constable has said.

BBC local news

Shaun Sawyer called on people to comply with the rules and keep their distance from others to stop that happening.

He said in the first week of lockdown Devon and Cornwall Police had “sadly” issued more fines than most forces in the United Kingdom.

He said the force received just under 1,000 calls from the public.

There had also been 433 “interactions” and 49 fines issued.

Asked what he expected from the weekend, he said: “I am expecting too many people to get Covid-19 and die if we carry on.

“That is what I am expecting so let’s not make that happen.”

Mr Sawyer said most people were doing the best they could but were still too close to each other in shops and while exercising.

“People are infecting each other even when they are trying to comply because they are not getting that distancing,” he said.

“The infection rate has never been higher in the South West so we need to be on our game better than ever.”

Mr Sawyer said getting in a car to travel for exercise should be “extraordinarily rare” in Devon and Cornwall, with the sea, coastline and rural communities.

He added: “For the few that breach this weekend, you are going to not only get a ticket but I think increasingly you are going to end up in a police cell.”

Devon farm joins global cohort for trailblazing regenerative farming pilot

Regenerative farms spanning four continents, including the Westcountry, have been enlisted to take part in the pilot of a trailblazing new certification scheme.

Athwenna Irons

Following the recent reveal of its newest label, Certified Regenerative, non-profit certifier A Greener World (AGW) has selected over 50 farmers to join the programme’s trial phase.

The certification will provide a whole-farm assurance of sustainability – measuring benefits for soil, water, air, biodiversity, infrastructure, animal welfare and social responsibility.

A Greener World (AGW) UK identifies, audits, certifies and promotes practical, sustainable farming systems by supporting farmers and informing consumers

A Greener World (AGW) UK identifies, audits, certifies and promotes practical, sustainable farming systems by supporting farmers and informing consumers (Image: A Greener World (AGW))

Key features of the programme include transparent, rigorous standards; high animal welfare; a holistic, farmer-led approach; early and broad access to regenerative markets; and a pragmatic, science-based approach.

Building on AGW’s growing family of trusted labels, which includes Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW and Certified Non-GMO by AGW, the first fully Certified Regenerative by AGW farms and products are expected to be announced later this year.

Wayne Copp, executive director of AGW UK / Europe, said: “The term ‘regenerative’ is already being thrown around like ‘sustainable’ was a decade ago, and is being used to ‘greenwash’ products or make them seem more environmentally sustainable than they are.

“Our new Certified Regenerative by AGW programme seeks to protect farmers and consumers by establishing clear standards and a label that farmers and consumers can trust to deliver a genuinely positive outcome: on the farm, at the table, and for the planet.”

Interest in the Certified Regenerative by AGW programme has been “overwhelming”, added Mr Copp, who farms in Woolacombe, North Devon. “The excellent applications made for a difficult selection process, but we are thrilled with the results.

“We know that truly regenerative farming requires accountability to each other and to all of the communities to which we belong—whether they be plant, animal, human, or the environment we all share. We have been humbled by the groundswell of interest from farmers and eaters alike and look forward to sharing our collective journey.”

Amelia Millman and Jason Greenway checking their herd of cattle at Springwater Farm, on the National Trust's Killerton Estate in East Devon

Amelia Millman and Jason Greenway checking their herd of cattle at Springwater Farm, on the National Trust’s Killerton Estate in East Devon (Image: Springwater Farm)

The core feature of Certified Regenerative by AGW is a five-year Regenerative Plan developed in partnership with the farmer, whereby farmers and experts assess risk, set goals and track progress toward meaningful milestones. Experienced agricultural advisors at the UK’s Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) will also be providing training and support in the development of regenerative plans.

Mr Copp said the role of AGW is to assess farms’ compliance with their own plan. “Currently most regenerative claims are not verified at all, and the few verified labels are either limited in scope or require Organic certification as a prerequisite, excluding the vast majority of farmland and hardwiring practices which are inherently not regenerative,” he continued.

Pilot farms were selected based on a variety of factors including agricultural experience, regenerative principles, market or educational impact and geographical diversity. With products ranging from grass-fed lamb to herbs and vegetables, the cohort of farms spread throughout the UK, Australia, Namibia, South Africa, Canada and the USA will partner AGW over the coming year to evaluate standards, plans and auditing procedures – allowing the programme to be trialled and assessed in a range of environments, climates and socioeconomic parameters.

Among the pilot participants is AGW-certified farmer and National Trust tenant, Amelia Millman, who farms at Springwater Farm in Devon alongside her partner, Jason Greenway.

She said: “As young farmers, we are pleased to be part of the Certified Regenerative by AGW pilot, working in close partnership with the National Trust’s Killerton Estate in Devon towards achieving both the National Trust’s and our own regenerative farming aspirations.

“As one of the new generation of British farmers, we want to promote high welfare and sustainable farming practices as much as possible. Working with the National Trust and being part of A Greener World’s pilot regenerative certification will help us to reach that full potential and protect the estate for future generations to enjoy.”

Exmouth chooses two schemes to get £300k

Exmouth residents and voluntary groups have voted to spend £300,000 on two large projects in the town. Last year, a random selected number of households were asked to choose from a list of seven community causes.

Radio Exe News

The leading two schemes will each cost £150,000. The cash, known as section 106 money, is taken by East Devon District Council from developers in return for being allowed to build housing.

Just over a thousand households voted. Now the money will be spent on resurfacing a sand astro pitch at Exmouth Community College which is at the end of its life. It’s used by community groups in the evenings, as well as the college for sports including football, hockey, rounders, soft ball, American football, handball, tag rugby, athletics and cricket. Just over half (52%) of respondents said it should receive funding.

The second project is to buy new sports-related equipment for Brixington park, which will be free to use by all. One end of a tarmacked games area with one goal for sports such as football and basketball and side panels for target practise. Outdoor gym equipment will go in too, along with improvements to the informal pitch in the middle of the park, including some drainage improvements, some levelling and new football goals. Out of all households that voted, 41% voted for this project. 

A bit of administrative faffing about has to take place before East Devon District Council can release the funds. Together with Exmouth Town Council, they’re subsquently hoping to work down the list of projects as far as possible and appropriate over the next three years.

The other projects, in order of how many votes they received were:

A free to use concrete track with bumps and small slopes for wheeled sports such as BMX, skateboards and scooters in Carter Avenue Park.                                                                                                                                

Asking for: £60,000. Out of all households that voted, 37% chose this project.

Expanding the current concrete skate park in Phear Park, which is free to use. This is used by skateboarders, scooters and BMX riders. 

Asking for: £240,000. Out of all households that voted, 37% voted for this project.

A back stretch / back exercise wall in Phear Park with exercises listed along its length, this would be free to use. This would help people of all ages to straighten and strengthen their backs and necks.Asking for £5,000. Out of all households that voted,23% voted for this project. 

A new drainage system at Exmouth Rugby Club for the two pitches and grass area next to Marine Way, allowing them to be able to be used more often. Matches and training are often called off because of waterlogged pitches.  Asking for: £210,000. Out of all households that voted, 23% voted for this project.

Additional car parking area at Withycombe Raleigh Common Football Pitches, home of the Brixington Blues and used by other clubs and teams. This would increase the usability of the pitches and make the parking safer.  Asking for: £40,000. Out of all households that voted, 20% voted for this project. 

East Devon District Council were already aware of the local support for Phear Park skate park expansion, and had sought funding through their own capital bids process in case the scheme did not receive enough votes in the s106 sports voting. This capital funding was approved by East Devon District Council’s Budget Setting and Capital Allocations Panel and Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee. If this is approved by their Full Council meeting in early February, East Devon District Council would pay for expansion of the skate park and start this project during 2021. 

In addition, now East Devon District Council are aware of the popularity of the free-to-use concrete track with bumps and small slopes for wheeled sports, they will also start investigating how they might be able to deliver this, if it isn’t soon funded by additional section 106 monies.

Chairman of Exmouth Town Council’s section 106/community infrastructure levy working party, Councillor Fred Caygill said: “I am pleased to say that finally we have a result on the public vote for the allocation of Section 106 funds for community sports projects in Exmouth. health and wellbeing are two particularly important subjects that we should all be encouraging in all sectors and at all levels.”

Councillor Sarah Jackson, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for democracy and transparency said: “Despite the ongoing pandemic, ‘the show must go on’ wherever practicable and safe

to do so. It is important that Section 106 money is put to good use within our communities as intended…The 1,082 households that responded represent a great many more individuals across all age groups, which is surely a triumph.