Responding to the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“The approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is a massive step forward in protecting people, including health and social care staff, from infection in the months ahead. All those involved in reaching this incredible milestone deserve our gratitude for their remarkable work, as does the MHRA team for its rigorous and rapid approval.
“However, we must remember that this does not signify the end of the COVID-19 crisis. It is a significant step in that direction, but it will be some time before everyone is protected, and in the meantime, it remains vitally important that we all continue to abide by restrictions, keep social contact to a minimum, and keep the spread of the virus as low as possible. The approval of the vaccine must not distract either the Government or the public from the need to reduce the rapid increase in COVID-19 infections.
“The expansion of the vaccination programme also adds to the demands on the time and expertise of tired and stretched health care teams. NHS staff are combatting the usual winter pressures while trying to maintain routine services, alongside unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 patients. The consequences are likely to be profound, both in terms of loss of life in the immediate term and also long-term harm to health.
“As this vaccine is logistically easier to deliver, the role of primary and community care providers becomes vital, as these services will be able to vaccinate priority cohorts more quickly. Alongside this, we still need an effective test, trace and isolate programme, and the Government must be much clearer about how this service will be improved, as it will be a key tool while vaccines are rolled out in the months to come.”