Committee highlights work to be done to coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine programme

Committee highlights work to be done to coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine programme

Committee data-sf-ec-immutable="" highlights work to be done to coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine programme

The Public Accounts Committee has published a report on the government’s approach to buying and rolling out coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines. The Committee commends the government’s ‘world beating’ progress. However, it also warns that there is ‘much to be done’ to respond to changes in the pandemic and meet the government’s targets, particularly considering supply issues. The Committee calls for the government to establish plans for adapting the vaccine programme by the end of April 2021.

Key conclusions from the report are:

• despite the ‘world beating progress’ in buying and the roll-out of the vaccines, uncertainty remains in key areas. This includes whether the vaccines stop the transmission of coronavirus, whether an annual vaccination programme is required, and as the virus has mutated, that the programme must adapt as more is learnt about the challenges ahead

• there are concerns regarding the vaccine supply chain

• the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) worked quickly to ensure access to vaccines but could have been more transparent in how decisions were made

• there will continue to be challenges concerning how to make sure the vaccine gets to the correct people at the right time 

• there is a risk that plans for the vaccination programme will not meet public expectations

• public confidence in the vaccine programme is crucial to its success, yet members of the public and health professionals are confused by the messaging about when and how people can access vaccines

Recommendations in response to the above conclusions include:

• to ensure momentum and progress is not lost, plans must be established to respond to future developments by March 2021

• BEIS should write to the Committee with its assessment of the risks of vaccine supply and plan to address them to ensure sufficient doses of the vaccine are available through to autumn 2021

• by the end of March 2021, BEIS should review its decisions on how to invest taxpayer’s money and its appointments process. BEIS should also examine its experience of using the taskforce model to inform its future requirements and ensure accountability arrangements are sufficient. By the end of April 2021, it should establish its learning so the government can improve the cross-government emergency response

• the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and Public Health England should write to the Committee by the end of February 2021 with their assessment of the risks and challenges to the ongoing deployment of the vaccine programme and a plan for how these will be addressed

• NHSE&I and DHSC must establish what they are planning to achieve by the vaccination programme to improve public understanding

• NHSE&I and DHSC must develop clear communication to navigate the public on the vaccine programme

Source: COVID-19: Planning for a vaccine

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