Westminster Health Forum

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Key issues for the COVID-19 vaccination programme - development, regulation, distribution, the global dimension, and improving future routine vaccination uptake

April 2021

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on on the future of vaccination programmes in the UK.

We very pleased to be able to include a governmental contribution from Nadhim Zahawi MP, Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment - as well as keynote sessions with Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive, British Society for Immunology; Helen Donovan, Professional Lead for Public Health, Royal College of Nursing; Richard Sloggett, Founder and Programme Director, Future Health; and former Special Adviser to the Health and Social Care Secretary; Dr Michael Tildesley, Member, Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M); and a senior speaker confirmed from Pfizer.

Stakeholders and policymakers will review progress and discuss what can be learned for the future development and uptake of vaccinations - as well as the priorities for improving routine immunisation coverage in the UK.

The conference takes place with the UK COVID-19 vaccination programme overwhelmingly regarded as progressing well, but with:

  • challenges - around take-up and reluctance from some sections of society to engage
  • tensions - internationally and within the UK over supply and distribution
  • questions - over how to achieve sufficient global levels of immunisation

Areas for discussion include:

  • progress, early lessons and the role of the vaccine in the wider national response to the pandemic
  • development of the COVID-19 vaccine, and what can be learned from the innovative methods and processes that have been used to implement rollout at pace and scale
  • implications for the future of vaccines in the UK and improving routine immunisation coverage in the UK
  • the future role of the UK in global development, rollout and administration of vaccinations

The conference is bringing together stakeholders with parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and key policy officials who are due to attend from the Cabinet Office; the DIT; the DHSC; the FCDO; HMRC; HM Treasury; the MHRA; the NAO; the OLS; The Scottish government; the UKSA; and the Welsh Government.

The agenda

  • The COVID-19 vaccination programme - safety, effectiveness, rollout, and what can be learned for improving routine vaccination uptake
  • The vaccine as part of the wider pandemic response - practical considerations for amending restrictions and for the long term use of the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Utilising innovative methods derived from COVID-19 vaccine development within future vaccination programmes
  • Assessing the policy approach to vaccine rollout, progress in reaching priority groups and the future landscape
  • Key aspects for supporting the workforce in delivering the vaccination programme
  • Early lessons from the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the practicalities of successful delivery, the role of vaccine hubs, identifying barriers to uptake, and tackling vaccine hesitancy
  • The 10-year vaccination strategy for England - opportunities for applying lessons from the pandemic
  • Maintaining routine immunisation services through the pandemic, priorities for the vaccination strategy, protecting children’s health and supporting primary care in improving vaccination uptake
  • The future for vaccines in the UK and the UK’s role in global development

Areas for discussion:

  • readiness levels - and making use of latest research:
    • how were the efforts for the COVID-19 vaccine able to draw upon the latest innovative methods and processes
    • what can be learned from how the challenges of vaccine development at pace and scale were approached in the research and manufacturing phases 
  • regulatory agility - lessons from the rolling review method, adaptation of guidance, and how safety, standards and quality are being ensured
  • significance for future vaccines - what the development of the COVID-19 vaccine and the use of new approaches such as RNA mean for the future of vaccines 
  • priority groups - identification, the data modelling process, policy decisions and the practicalities of infrastructure, staffing and organisation 
  • distribution and rollout - efficiency, fairness and balancing supply across the UK, as well as mitigating supply problems, with a trial to mix-and-match vaccines underway 
  • vaccine hubs - development and lessons from the use of public spaces and primary care settings in administering the vaccine within the community
    • options for the future - with some NHS leaders calling for increased use of drive-through vaccine centres following a pilot showing increased rates of vaccination 
  • vaccine nationalism:
    • the impact of national vaccine supply agreements and distribution policies, as well as rollout concerns following the EU dispute with AstraZeneca
    • with WHO raising concerns about distribution to poorer countries, with the WHO Special Envoy on COVID-19 calling for distribution to other countries once over-50s have been vaccinated
    • the UK’s role and response so far as the UK pledges to send surplus vaccine supply to poorer countries, and its role in funding the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme
  • flu and other vaccination programmes - what can be learned that can help inform the planning, management and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine 
  • moving out of lockdown - achieving the coverage required in order to remove restrictions and how this can be done safely with discussion on:
    • the potential for vaccine or immunity passports
    • the ability of a vaccine to reduce symptoms and reduce spread
    • new variants and vaccine effectiveness - their implications and
    • compulsory vaccination - assessing its feasibility, including in settings such as schools and social care, with the NCA seeking legal advice on compulsory vaccination of social care staff, as well as NHS England advising that staff could be redeployed if they decline a vaccine due to concerns over staff vaccination uptake
    • maintaining routine immunisation services - the impact of the pandemic and maintaining vaccine uptake with a drop in immunisation rates in comparison to 2019 despite services continuing 
  • increasing vaccination uptake - reminder systems, better use of data, working at a place-based level and utilising population health methods, and engagement with the public and frontline staff
  • tackling vaccine hesitancy - including the impact of misinformation on vaccine uptake, as well as the role of national and local public health campaigns in vaccine uptake and immunisation coverage
  • uptake of vaccination more widely - priorities following WHO removing the UK’s measles elimination status in 2019, the delayed 10-year vaccination strategy, and concerns over low flu jab uptake, with additional priorities for how schools will catch up with routine vaccinations
  • reaching under-vaccinated communities:
    • strategies such as the use of immunisation coordinators for hard to reach families, and using local knowledge to develop targeted programmes
    • as steps set out in the vaccine uptake plan, such as raising awareness of how hard-to-reach groups can receive a vaccine, with particular concerns over housebound patients being missed

A scan of recent developments:

  • Priority groups for coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination:
    • Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation guidance published last year outlining the priority groups for receiving the vaccine
    • subsequent update that recommends prioritising the first dose to as many people as possible over the second dose
    • NHS organisations instructed to rapidly vaccinate staff - increasing priority being given to healthcare and social care workers, and discussion of possible extension to other key workers
    • DHSC announcing the introduction of new technology that can identify those with increased risk of COVID-19 - which looks at ethnicity and deprivation, adding a further 1.7m people to the shielding list and prompting over 800,000 to be newly prioritised for a vaccine
  • vaccine approval and supply - the MHRA giving approval of vaccines from a range of providers, with varying approaches, and more sources and supplies coming on stream following the use of the rolling review regulatory process used for public health emergencies
  • surplus - policymakers and stakeholders considering strategies for the UK offering its supplies to other countries, including the extent, timing and targeting of such moves
  • Vaccine Taskforce - established to drive COVID-19 vaccine efforts, and prepare for international distribution, as well as the development of a long-term strategy for future pandemics
  • Budget 2021 - with extra funding allocated to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, as well as for measures to increase vaccine testing capacity and UK variant sampling, for vaccine effectiveness studies, and for creating further vaccines to work against variants
  • Government targets false vaccine information on social media - a series of videos launched by DCMS and backed by community leaders designed to work within private messaging services to tackle misinformation sharing amongst vaccine hesitant groups
  • Hospitals to start biggest ever NHS Vaccination Programme - as well as the use of general practice surgeries, sports venues and conference centres for mass vaccination sites
  • GPs to get £5 extra per child vaccinated under new MMR catch-up scheme - beginning from April as outlined in a five-year deal with NHS England and the BMA, after concerns of increased measles
  • reports that up to a fifth of staff in some care homes refuse COVID vaccine - prompting the National Care Association to seek legal advice on whether they can introduce compulsory vaccinations
  • World's first COVID-19 vaccine alternating dose study launches in UK - supported by the NIHR, it has received £7m of government funding, and will examine the effects of giving different first and second doses, and the efficacy of different time intervals between doses
  • Impact of COVID-19 on childhood vaccination counts to week 4 in 2021, and vaccine coverage to December 2020 in England: interim analyses - a report from PHE evaluating the impact of the pandemic so far on Hexavalent and MMR childhood vaccinations
  • GPs receive funding boost to vaccinate housebound in NHS drive to protect most vulnerable - an incentive by the NHS to ensure the most vulnerable are vaccinated as quickly as possible
  • UK Government and CureVac enter new partnership to tackle new future variants of COVID-19 - to enable a quick response to any new variants that may need an updated vaccine
  • UK COVID-19 vaccine uptake plan - based on local initiatives already in place, outlining plans to improve vaccine uptake throughout the country and assist with local engagement in communities so as to reach those that are under-vaccinated 
    • introduction of a Vaccination Equalities Committee - led by NHSE&I, it will bring together organisations to advise on inequalities surrounding vaccine deployment 
  • World’s first coronavirus Human Challenge study receives ethics approval in the UK - receiving £33.6m of UK investment, the study will expose healthy volunteers to the original strain of COVID-19 to improve understanding of the virus, and help vaccine and treatment development
  • Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all - Government White Paper with proposals to improve population health and drive public health outcomes, as well as reforms to support integrated care systems and make more efficient use of NHS resources
  • COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 - published by the Government, setting out how lockdown restrictions will be eased and includes the continued successful progress of the vaccine programme as a key factor in implementing the steps within the plan
  • Covax vaccine-sharing scheme - an initiative by WHO to distribute vaccine supplies to poorer countries, with Ghana being the first country to receive them

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from both Houses of Parliament, and officials from the Cabinet Office; the Competition & Markets Authority; the Department for International Trade; the Department of Health and Social Care; the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; the Government Legal Department; HM Revenue and Customs; HM Treasury; the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency; the National Audit Office; the Office for Life Sciences; The Scottish Government; the UK Statistics Authority; and the Welsh Government.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials in this area of public policy, together with other stakeholders from across the health sector including industry representatives, pharmaceutical companies, research and development organisations, the life sciences sector, primary care, public health professionals, local health systems, local authorities, executive agencies, regulators, the independent and third sector, patient groups, manufacturers, law firms and consultancies, academics and think tanks, and reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles