Covid-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine: The logistics behind the distribution of the vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine is set to start being given to vulnerable people across Yorkshire this week.

By Rob Parsons
Sunday, 6th December 2020, 8:14 am
Updated Sunday, 6th December 2020, 8:18 am

Among the first 50 hospital trusts to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine are Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The Government has now revealed the process behind getting the vaccine administered to the public.

The distribution of vaccine across the UK is being undertaken by Public Health England and the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland using systems which have been specially adapted previous successful national immunisation programmes.

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An NHS pharmacy technician at the Royal Free Hospital, London, simulates the preparation of the Pfizer vaccine to support staff training ahead of the rollout.

Pfizer has already sent a number of the vaccines from Belgium, which are currently being kept at secure locations around the country. Once delivered, the vaccines go through a quality insurance test which can take up to a day to complete.

These are the steps the Government will be taking next to complete the roll-out of the vaccine:

- Each box needs to be opened and unpacked manually, and temperature data has to be downloaded from each box. There are 5 packs of 975 doses per box. Only sites with the necessary licence from the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) can split the vaccine packs.

- Once all checks are complete, the vaccine will be made available to order by authorised sites in the NHS, with around 50 sites in England so far.

- Delivering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is complex as it needs to be stored at very cold temperatures and moved carefully, so at first will be administered from “hospital hubs.” Defrosting the vaccine takes a few hours and then additional time is required to prepare the vaccine for administering.

- More than 1,000 local vaccination centres, operated by groups of GPs, will also come online shortly and these will be increased as more vaccines come available

- Stage one of the phased roll out of the vaccine will begin when it has been distributed

- Once the Government gets more vaccines and are able to split the large packs down, bigger vaccination centres and smaller arrangements through local pharmacies will be set up.