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Search for Covid vaccinations sites in Camden (must come with big fridge)

Camden won't be 'front of queue' just because of research lab locations

26 November, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Council leader Councillor Georgia Gould

HEALTH and council chiefs are searching for sites capable of holding vaccine super fridges.

Councillors had wanted new coronavirus vaccines to be administered in places which residents trusted most such as GP surgeries, pharmacists and community centres.

But the Pfizer vaccine, which could be ready for use next month after recording a 95 per cent success rate in trials, needs to be stored at -70 degrees and a shortage of industrial fridges could be a logistical problem. Its creators believe it can last for only four days in a normal fridge.

The Moderna vaccine, which has reported similar efficacy, requires a -20 degree cold storage.

The third vaccine success to be announced was Oxford University and Astra Zeneca’s candidate which does not need supercool temperatures.

It recorded 70 per cent efficacy, until it was discovered different dosages can take that figure up to beyond the 90 per cent mark. Ministers suggested that an unprecedented vaccination schedule could now see those most at risk of Covid immunised by Easter.

But on the ground, local authorities and health services are working out how such a programme can be administered. In some cities, big event spaces are likely to be commandeered.

Town Hall leader Labour councillor Georgia Gould said the NHS would be leading the roll-out of any vaccine but told a council meeting last week: “I think I would say our preference would be for it to be distributed as close as possible to communities and people wouldn’t have to travel. I think that in the NHS, certainly across London and in Camden, I think the concern is that because of the way it has to be stored, that might not be possible.”

She added: “There’s lots of different plans going on around how we work with GPs and community pharmacies, but also identifying potential sites for people receiving vaccinations.

“Officers are working to identify places, but it’s still kind of a live conversation which we are very much trying to influence because we are really concerned about the misinformation already going around about the vaccine.”

Piers Simey, Camden’s acting director of public health, said: “It’s such amazing news to have these vaccines potentially in play – but we are a stretch away from them being in play.

Although the NHS has been stood up to rapidly mobilise from the start of December, the amount of vaccine that may be available may not be much. It’s something that could easily go into the new year.”

He added: “In terms of the logistics, clearly the first vaccine needs around the -70 storage, which is a huge complexity.”

Camden’s leader of the opposition Councillor Oliver Cooper asked whether any arrangements could be made with the borough’s research laboratories. “I think it’s four days that the Pfizer vaccine can last at a normal fridge temperature and it doesn’t take four days to get from King’s Cross to the wild frontiers of Cricklewood and so surely we can make an offer and say: ‘Look it’s easier for deployment within Camden because of those additional freezers right next door – we can actually deploy them more easily here and have those local hubs.”

He told the meeting this could help make sure Camden was at the “front of the queue”.

But Mr Simey said London boroughs were likely to work together and there would be no “prioritisation” based on which had more fridge facilities.

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