Britain is preparing to become the first country to roll out the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week, initially making the shot available at hospitals before distributing stocks to doctors’ clinics, the government said on Sunday.
The first doses are set to be administered on Tuesday, with the National Health Service (NHS) giving top priority to vaccinating the over-80s, frontline health-care workers and care home staff and residents.
Britain gave emergency use approval for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech last week — jumping ahead in the global race to begin the most crucial mass inoculation program in history.
In total, Britain has ordered 40 million doses. As each person requires two doses, that is enough to vaccinate 20 million people in the country of 67 million.
About 800,000 doses are expected to be available within the first week.
WATCH | Britain approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use:
Initial doses that have arrived from Belgium are being stored in secure locations across the country, where they will be quality checked, the health ministry said.
The rollout coincides with a crucial and perilous moment in negotiations between Britain and the European Union on a post-Brexit trade agreement.
A status quo transition period will end on Dec. 31 and a no-deal scenario would lead to major disruptions in the movement of goods between Britain and EU countries such as Belgium.
The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday that, under U.K. government contingency plans, tens of millions of vaccine doses could be flown to Britain by military aircraft to avoid delays at ports caused by Brexit.
The head of the medicines regulatory agency that approved the vaccine, June Raine, was asked whether she was concerned that a no-deal risked disrupting the rollout.
“We’ve practised, we are ready, we are fully prepared for any possible outcome,” Raine said in an interview on BBC television.
Administered in 50 hospitals
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has onerous storage requirements. It needs to be kept at -70 C and only lasts five days in a regular fridge.
For that reason, the health ministry said the vaccine would first be administered in 50 hospitals. It said it would take a few hours to defrost each vaccine and prepare it for use.
NHS England has written to general practitioners, telling them to get ready to start giving vaccinations through local doctors’ services from Dec. 14.
Rather than run clinics in individual surgeries, groups of local doctors will operate more than 1,000 vaccination centres across the country, the government said.
Boxes of the vaccine contain five packs of 975 doses, but special regulatory approval is needed to split them up. A senior medical official has said that while he was hopeful it would be possible to split the packs and deliver straight to care homes, it was not guaranteed.
Queen to get vaccine
Britain is among the first nations to roll out vaccinations outside the context of a clinic trial, raising hopes that the tide could soon turn against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million people globally and hammered the world economy.
With high levels of vaccine skepticism worrying public health experts, the Times and Mail on Sunday newspapers reported that Queen Elizabeth, 94, and her husband Prince Philip, 99, would “let it be known” when they had received the jab.
The Queen is highly admired in British society, and her public backing for the vaccine would be a powerful message to counter anti-vaccination misinformation circulating online.
Couche-Tard drops bid to take over Carrefour: sources – CBC.ca
Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard has dropped its 16.2 billion euro ($24.9 billion Cdn) bid to acquire European retailer Carrefour SA after the takeover plan ran into stiff opposition from the French government, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.
The decision to end merger talks came after a meeting on Friday between French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Couche-Tard’s founder and chairman, Alain Bouchard, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter is confidential.
Couche-Tard and Carrefour declined to comment.
Earlier on Friday, France ruled out any sale of grocer Carrefour on food security grounds, prompting the Canadian firm and its allies to mount a last-ditch attempt to salvage the deal.
“Food security is strategic for our country so that’s why we don’t sell a big French retailer,” Le Maire said. “My answer is extremely clear: we are not in favour of the deal. The no is polite, but it’s a clear and final no.”
Couche-Tard was hoping to win France’s blessing by offering commitments on jobs and France’s food supply chain as well as keeping the merged entity listed in both Paris and Toronto, with Carrefour boss Alexandre Bompard and his Couche-Tard counterpart Brian Hannasch leading it as co-CEOs, one of the sources said.
The plan also included a commitment to keep the new entity’s global strategic operations in France and having French nationals on its board, he said.
Couche-Tard was also going to pump in 3 billion euros of investments to the French retailer — a plan that was widely backed by Carrefour, which employs 105,000 workers in France, its largest market, making it France’s biggest private-sector employer.
Criticism of foreign investment strategy
The French move, with ministers shooting down the offer less than 24 hours after talks were confirmed, sparked disquiet in some business circles over how French President Emmanuel Macron decides which foreign investment is welcome and which is not.
Some politicians and bankers said the push-back could tarnish Macron’s pro-business image while others highlighted that the COVID-19 crisis had forced more than one country to redefine its strategic national interests.
The comments sparked a trans-Atlantic flurry of lobbying and Couche-Tard’s Bouchard flew to Paris to explain the merits of the deal to Le Maire, the source said.
Bouchard said the finance minister reiterated his opposition without listening to the terms of the transaction.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asked about the prospects for a deal, said he would always be there to help Canadian firms succeed internationally and said he spoke this week with Macron.
One of France’s biggest employers
Along with other retailers, Carrefour, with roughly a fifth of France’s groceries market, played a major role in ensuring smooth food supplies as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The country has tightened takeover rules to protect French companies deemed strategic, including under the presidency of Macron, who will face a presidential election in 2022.
During the pandemic, Macron has ramped up calls to protect French sovereignty in areas such as health care and industry, although the former investment banker has tried to strike a balance with a business-friendly approach.
Couche-Tard made a non-binding offer on Wednesday for the French grocery group, largely in cash.
A source familiar with the discussions told Reuters that 20 euros per share was not enough but was a starting point for discussions. Initial contact between the two companies came at the end of last year and Couche-Tard sent its first letter in early January, the source said.
Carrefour acknowledged Couche-Tard’s approach to discuss a combination on Wednesday.
Global National: Jan. 15, 2021 | COVID-19 vaccines delayed after manufacturing expansion – Global News
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- Global National: Jan. 15, 2021 | COVID-19 vaccines delayed after manufacturing expansion Global News
- Pfizer to temporarily reduce vaccine deliveries to Canada, minister says CBC.ca
- Pfizer is cutting shipments to Canada | How will the COVID-19 vaccination strategy be impacted? CTV News
- COVID-19 Update: Snowbirds head to Florida for shots | Pfizer delay a setback for Alberta | Drumheller inmates go on hunger strike Calgary Herald
- Pfizer delays delivery of COVID-19 vaccines CityNews Toronto
- View Full coverage on Google News
B.C. faces tough choices as near-term Pfizer vaccine shipments cut in half – Global News
British Columbia health officials are working to determine how to prioritize who gets a COVID-19 immunization, amid a reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine they admit will have a significant effect.
Pfizer has announced a temporary delay in shipments of the vaccine as it scales up its European production centre.
That means that the 50,000-dose shipment British Columbia was expecting in February will be slashed in half.
Ottawa reassures Canadians after announcement of COVID-19 vaccine delay
“In some sectors the delivery will be delayed and that is just the reality we face,” Dix told Global News on Friday.
“What it will really affect is the February and March period … it obviously impacts the priority groups and second doses as well.”
Dix added that there was no interruption in the supply of the Moderna vaccine, and that the delay would have little effect on Pfizer shipments next week.
Focus BC: Vaccine rollout, long term care strategy during the pandemic
In an interview with Global’s Focus BC, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said her team was working to determine who will and won’t get their shot in that time period.
Officials must weigh whether to skip some front-line workers who are still waiting for their shot, or to extend the time period between when each person receives their first and second dose.
Pfizer guidelines call for the doses to be administered 21 days apart, while Canada’s vaccine advisory committee has recommended vaccines be given a maximum of 42 days after the first.
“People need to be reassured that even after 48 days and longer, it does not just drop off dramatically,” Henry said.
“We will look at how much vaccine is coming in, how many people are due to get their vaccine in that week (when) we will have less, and then we will have to make decisions on we have to optimize who gets vaccine at that time.”
How will I know it’s my turn to get the vaccine? Your COVID-19 questions answered
Henry said the silver lining of the temporary delay in doses was that the work Pfizer is doing at its plant will allow it to produce more vaccine down the road, some of which will come to British Columbia.
As of Friday, B.C. had given at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to nearly 76,000 people.
The province has concentrated distribution of its first doses of vaccine to front-line health-care workers, those working and living in long-term care facilities and First Nations communities.
Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday the issues at Pfizer’s Belgium plant would result in an be an “unfortunate” situation where Canada would see its expected shipment of vaccine in February cut in half.
— With files from Richard Zussman and the Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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