Can’t We Inject Some Urgency?

The island will continue to follow its planned vaccine rollout schedule, the health minister has confirmed, despite suggestions from MHKs that we should copy the system of other areas.

Bill Shimmins MHK, in this week’s Tynwald sitting, suggested to Health Minister David Ashford that if he wants to speed up the roll out, he should look at Guernsey. 

He said: ‘Guernsey are considerably ahead of us, despite receiving a lower level of vaccinations and they’re operating on a five days a week basis from 10am to 7pm. Guernsey have decided to move to a six week interval between the first and second doses and they publicly state this is to ensure they have most optimal and strategic use is made of the vaccine supply. If he’s struggling to work out how to speed up the vaccination programme, will he look at the Guernsey experience and see if he can inject some urgency into this?’

In his response, Mr Ashford said he was aware of the Guernsey situation and said that the Channel Island had moved to prioritising the dose. While the island’s clinical team is looking at it, the DHSC will be ‘guided by the science’. He added: ‘The 12 weeks is based on a subset of patients from the clinical stage three trials which suggests the first dose gives you 90% efficiety. This is challenged by many scientists who say that the overall trails’ data only gives 52%.’ Mr Ashford said that other ‘experts in the viral field’ worry it may make it easier for the virus to mutate.

He added: ‘Should the recommendation from the clinically advisory group be moved to 12 weeks then we will. But certainly previously the advice has been to stick with the 21 and  28 days.’

Second doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be given to residents who received their first jab three weeks ago, back before the island went into a second lockdown. It was on January 4 that Sandie Hannay became the first person on island to receive the Pfizer Covid vaccine.

Julie Edge MHK asked Mr Ashford if a larger amount of vaccines were to become available where it would be administered as the airport and Chester Street centres are not operational, he said that the centre at Newlands could be extended. But he said, there will not be a sudden wave of vaccinations available as they have scheduled release and delivery timeframes.

Ms Edge’s Onchan colleague Rob Callister asked Mr Ashford whether given the importance of the roll out for the island’s visitor economy, at what point does he feel when we will be able to open our borders and suggested figures like 60% or the ‘herd immunity’ point of 70%. 

Mr Ashford set that there are ‘various things’ that will lead to a decision on borders being made including the UK infection rate and suggested that the first major review of the borders based on the vaccine rates on the island could be when the most at risk people have been vaccinated, which is due to be completed by the end of May.