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The Oxford vaccine is likely to be the first Covid jab that large numbers of Britons receive, despite Pfizer’s candidate already being analysed by the medicines regulators, experts say.
The fact that the Oxford vaccine can be kept in normal fridges, whereas Pfizer’s product has to be stored at -75C , may see it enter widespread usage ahead of the latter.
“It’s a bit like the tortoise and the hare”, said Richard Wilding, a professor of supply chain strategy at Cranfield University.
“You could argue that the tortoise was the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, but it could be the overall winner in terms of the volumes that are going to go out, because it doesn’t face the logistical obstacles and challenges that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine does”, he added.
“The key thing is that the ‘time to market’ for Pfizer may be the quickest but the thing you need to consider is ‘time to volume’ – that is, getting and enabling mass vaccination. It may be the AstraZeneca vaccine being easier to manage within conventional supply chains may win out.”
In addition, the Royal College of GPs said it expects the Oxford vaccine to be the drug used by family doctors, who will play the lead role in the UK-wide vaccination drive.
Dr Steve Mowle, the college’s honorary treasurer, said: “We’re hearing really positive news about the Oxford vaccine. It appears to be effective and to pose fewer logistical challenges than other vaccines, for example, around storage and distribution, which would have been particularly challenging in general practice.
“It is likely that different vaccines will be more appropriate for different settings, for example, the Oxford vaccine sounds like it is more suitable than others for delivery at a primary care level.”
GPs are set to be the healthcare professionals who immunise care home residents and staff and anyone over 80, the two groups the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have said should be the top priority in the rollout of whichever vaccine or vaccines have been approved.
While Pfizer’s vaccine is being manufactured in Belgium, the Oxford vaccine will be produced in the UK. The government has agreed a £50m contract with CP Pharmaceuticals in Wrexham, north Wales, for it to make an unknown number of millions of doses over the next 18 months.
A spokesman for CP Pharma, which trades as Wockhardt, said it was “on standby” to produce the Oxford drug and has already been doing trial runs in anticipation that it gets regulatory approval.“We don’t have a date yet but production is due to start soon,” said a spokesman.
Despite Pfizer having declared two weeks ago that its vaccine had shown 90% efficacy, which it later upgraded to 95%, ministers have been hoping that the Oxford vaccine will become available around the same time, because it is as straightforward to manage as the winter flu vaccine and does not require the special ultra-low temperature storage and distribution equipment that Pfizer’s does.
In the Oxford team’s announcement on Monday morning they highlighted that adenovirus vaccines, like their vaccine, “have been used extensively for decades and have the significant benefit that they are stable, easily manufactured, transported and stored at domestic fridge temperatures.
“This means they can be easily distributed using existing medical facilities such as doctors surgeries and local pharmacies, allowing for the vaccine, if approved, to be deployed very rapidly”.
Ruth Rankine, who runs the primary care network at the NHS Confederation, said: “A national distribution service will deliver vaccinations to the designated vaccination sites. There will be a national data platform to keep track of vaccine demand, consumables and PPE and vaccination sites will need to use the data platform to confirm receipt of their allocations at the end of the supply chains, verify inventory and provide updates on consumption.”
NHS England is finalising its vaccine “deployment plan” detailing the logistics of the drive.
Source: The Guardian
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