|Vaccine roll out: no date for CEV list, u-turn on care home residents being first to receive jab
The government has announced that 800,000 Coronavirus vaccines will be ready to use from next week.
It was expected that it would be working to a prioritisation list, with the first recipients being care home residents and their carers.
Announcing the approval of the vaccines for public use yesterday morning (Wednesday 2 December), Dr June Raine, Chief Executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: “no corners had been cut” and that the vaccine “meets the strictest requirements of safety, of effectiveness, and of quality”.
The vaccine, made by Pfizer/BioNTech, is the first in the world to be approved for rollout.
There are approximately 480,000 care home residents in the UK. It looked likely that the first batch of vaccines would only have enough units to cover care home residents and carers.
Thereafter, the prioritisation recommended by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) would run thus:
People aged 85 and over
People aged 75 and over
People who are classed as being clinically extremely vulnerable, and people aged 70 and over
People who are aged 65 and over
People who are adults aged under 65 with health conditions which increase their risk
People aged 60 and over
People aged 55 and over
People aged 50 and over
However, by Wednesday evening, the Government announced that it will be unable to vaccinate care home residents unless they are scheduled for hospital visits.
In a turnaround from the morning’s announcements, and from the JCVI prioritisation list which had put care home residents at the top of the list along with care home workers, the Government has now said that the fragility of the vaccine, which needs specialist storage conditions, will be delivered first to care home workers and NHS staff.
Patients aged over 80 who are in hospital may still receive the vaccine.
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “The government has known for weeks that the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at extremely cold temperatures, and despite this, it gave assurances that the JCVI prioritisation list would be adhered to with care home residents being the first to be vaccinated.
“Whether by accident or design, the government isn’t just playing around with storage temperatures of vaccines, it’s playing around with smoke and mirrors as far as the expectations of those who are most at risk from the virus are concerned.
“Yesterday evening’s announcement is completely different from the expectation set at the morning’s press conference. If the vaccine cannot be taken to care homes, why is the government not looking to take at least some care home residents to the vaccine?”
Disability Rights UK has been campaigning for shielders – clinically extremely vulnerable people – to be moved up the prioritisation list. This group was moved from sixth on the list to fourth over the weekend. We are fearful that a question mark now hangs over this position given the u-turn on care home residents.
The group includes people with certain cancers, chronic kidney disease and Down’s Syndrome.
We asked the Cabinet Office, where the Disability Unit is based, and the Department for Health and Social Care, to get back to us as to when the vaccine will be available for shielders. We have been told that timescales cannot yet be provided.
Last week, Baroness Jane Campbell asked a question in the House of Lords about vaccines. She has yet to receive any evidence about the prioritisation of certain groups above others.
Read the government’s priority groups vaccine guidance.
Half of food bank users have money taken by DWP from benefit payments
The Trussell Trust has published a new report – Lift the Burden – revealing that one in two households at food banks (47%), already struggling to make ends meet, face the stress of having money deducted from their benefits payments by the DWP.
The charity says that almost three out of four (73%) of households on Universal Credit using food banks over the summer were repaying an advance payment.
The Trust highlights that paying back an advance payment, or repaying an overpayment after a system error, makes it harder for people to afford the essentials and can affect people’s mental health.
Ken Butler DRUK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said: “In June 2019, a report by the Disability Benefit Consortium found that the five-week wait for Universal Credit was having a devastating impact on disabled people.
“The impact on disabled people having less money included struggling to pay for food (70%), driving a significant number to food banks (35%) and a worsening of people’s health, in particular their mental health (85%) and again, most worryingly driving people to consider suicide.
“This situation is most likely to have worsened following the Coronavirus pandemic. Granting respite from benefit deductions is the very least the Government should do to ease the burden on hard pressed claimants.
“More fundamentally what it needs to do is to make permanent the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and extend it to legacy benefits.”
Read more on our website.
Government must end “crippling uncertainty” over £20 per week uplift to UC and legacy benefits, say coalition of 60 organisations
Over 60 organisations have issued a public statement expressing their “deep concern” at the failure of the Government to announce that they are making the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent and extending it to legacy benefits including ESA.
The coalition includes the Disability Benefits Consortium, of which DR UK is a member.
The public statement says that a “glaring omission” in last week’s Government Spending Review and annual benefit uprating decision was any announcement on the future of the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit.
“We are deeply concerned that the Government has chosen to leave millions of people with crippling uncertainty and fear over Christmas, facing the prospect of being plunged into even greater hardship next year.
Costs have shot up; job opportunities are scarce and our economy will still be in deep recession next Spring. Even with the additional support this year, families have faced mounting debt and hardship; now they face the prospect of the lifeline of the £20 uplift being whipped away in April.”
DR UK’s Ken Butler Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser says: “By restricting the £20 per week increase only to Universal Credit the Government continues to discriminate against the millions of disabled people on other benefits. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, benefit cuts and austerity hit disabled people the hardest.
“The question a responsible Government should consider is: are those on ESA, JSA and income support facing significant extra costs due to the pandemic like those on Universal Credit?
“The answer is clearly yes – so the £20 increase should also be payable to them.”
Read more on our website.
More than 8 out of 10 disabled claimants fail to find work through the DWP Work and Health Programme
New DWP statistics show that more than eight out of ten disabled claimants have not achieved a ‘job outcome’ through the DWP Work and Health Programme (WHP).
The WHP replaced the Work Programme and Work Choice schemes.
There have been around 160,000 referrals to the programme, with the majority of these being disabled people.
Read more on our website.
Vitamin D for shielders
More than two and a half million vulnerable people across England will be offered free Vitamin D supplements for the winter, the government has announced.
All care homes will automatically receive provision for their residents, while individuals on the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable list will receive a letter inviting them to ‘opt in’ for a supply to be delivered directly to their homes. Deliveries will be free of charge, starting in January, and will provide four months’ worth of supplements to last people through the winter months.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: “A number of studies indicate Vitamin D might have a positive impact in protecting against COVID-19. I have asked NICE and PHE to re-review the existing evidence on the link between COVID-19 and Vitamin D to ensure we explore every potential opportunity to beat this virus.”
The advice from Public Health England is for everybody to take 10 micrograms (400 IU) of Vitamin D a day between October and early March to keep bones and muscles healthy.
Public Health England advises people who are more at risk of not having enough Vitamin D to take a Vitamin D supplement all year round. A range of products and doses are available at supermarkets, pharmacies and other retailers.
Anyone who is able to purchase a Vitamin D supplement and start taking them now is advised to do so, even if they are also eligible for a delivery later in the year.