The remaining 3 children will have to wait for vaccination to be expanded to younger populations.
Getting the Pfizer vaccine to the tiny island would have been a logistical nightmare, BBC Scotland’s Jen Stout reported. The shot, which until recently required ultra-low storage temperatures, would have been very difficult to get on the tiny airplanes and boats that go to the windy territory, part of the Shetland Islands.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, however, could be transported in two-seater airplane in a cold box.
“Fair Isle was one of those areas in the UK where there were no confirmed Covid cases so we thought it was really important to continue that as a statistic moving forward,” the director of health and community care in the area told BBC radio Scotland’s “Good Morning Scotland.”
Fair Isle is the most remote inhabited part of the United Kingdom. It is not connected to the main electricity grid, and has only had reliable electricity since 2018, which comes from a system of solar panels and wind turbines. It is 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.
The island is know for its observatory, which watches migratory birds, and its particular style of woolen sweaters.
Alex Penn, Assistant Warden at the Fair Isle Bird observatory, snapped a picture of the tiny island on Monday:
Many people are worried about their employment rights regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. We reached out to Amanda Hamilton, Chief Executive of the non-profit National Association of Licensed Paralegals, to help explain your rights and potential issues around refusing the vaccine.
There is no law in UK which requires mandatory vaccination, as much as some anti-vaxxers claim otherwise. The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 devolves powers to Parliament to legislate in order to protect UK Citizens. The law enables Parliament to intervene in an emergency situation, such as the pandemic, and impose lockdowns and restrictions to protect citizens, but it cannot impose mandatory vaccinations. In other words, there is no power to make vaccinations mandatory.
This creates a plethora of issues, from human rights to equality, and balances them against the rights of others to be safe in their workplace. In addition, it raises issues around the possible criminal implications of forcing someone to be vaccinated against their will.
The Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 s20 states that an unlawful wounding would occur if a person were forced to have a vaccination against their will. A wound means ‘a break of the skin’. This statute still remains in force today.
Human Rights and Equality
Compulsory medical treatment or testing is contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights meaning that it is a human right to refuse medical treatment if you wish to do so. Refusing medical treatment could be because of deeply held religious or other beliefs, and this brings into play the Equality Act 2010. This statute states an individual is protected from discrimination from nine possible characteristics including: age, disability, gender re-assignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sex.
So, an employer cannot force an employee to be vaccinated.
Can an Employee Be Dismissed for Refusing the Vaccine?
The short answer is no. If they were, then it would amount to an unfair dismissal and the employee could justifiably take the employer to an employment tribunal for discrimination. The case would be brought under the Equality Act 2010 in that the claimant’s refusal to be vaccinated is founded on a fundamental belief or on religious grounds. It would of course, be for the claimant to prove that she/he has such beliefs.
The situation would be the same if the claimant felt that they were being victimised, because of their belief, to such an extent that they felt that they could not continue being in the employ of the employer, and consequently, resigned. This would amount to constructive dismissal. The result being the same as if the employer had dismissed the employee – an employment tribunal case could ensue for unfair dismissal.
A Safe Environment for Others
So how can an employer manage such a situation if there is a statutory duty to provide a safe environment for employees in the workplace? The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 places the responsibility on employers to protect the ‘health, safety and welfare’ at work of all employees and includes others on the premises such as temps, contractors and visitors.
This appears to be in contradiction to the premise that it is an individual’s right to refuse the vaccine. The only way to manage this is to impose certain guidelines on employees such as those we are all asked to follow during the current pandemic, e.g. social distancing, mask wearing and sanitising/hand washing etc.
Of course, all this does depend on job that an employee is employed to do. For example, working in an office environment, following government guidelines may work reasonably well. However, if the employee that is refusing to accept the vaccine is working in social care or in medical care with vulnerable patients, then the standards may change. Being on the front line in such a situation may well mean that refusal to be vaccinated may place those who have not yet been vaccinated (perhaps due to age, medical conditions, or access), as well as themselves, at risk.
A Reasonable Solution
In these circumstances, it may be prudent to find alternative work for the employee until it is safe for them to return. A reasonable solution such as this should be acceptable to an employee.
If the employee doesn’t find it acceptable, they might bring an unfair dismissal case against the employer on the basis of discrimination. A Tribunal hearing such a case weighs up the rights of the employee to refuse the vaccine, taking into account the nature of their work, the alternatives offered, and how many others would be put at risk. In other words, they would look at the situation and apply a test of reasonability.
Does an Employee Have to Tell an Employer?
If the employer can demonstrate that asking staff to be vaccinated is a reasonable management instruction, then asking them for this information will also be reasonable. However, just as you can’t force them to be vaccinated, you also can’t force them to reveal their vaccination status.
Again, equality laws will come into play if there is a risk that revealing their vaccination status will result in discrimination within the workplace.
If they do agree to tell, then this will constitute sensitive personal health data and the organisation will need to comply with GDPR. The same applies to information about who has not been vaccinated and why.
The best policy is one of clear communication. Employers should explain why they’d like staff to be vaccinated and why they’d like the information about their status. An employer should give the opportunity to discuss this privately and look at ways to mitigate the risks and offer alternative working options. This way, as an employer, you have done your best to provide the right working environment, have kept staff informed and engaged in the process and ultimately reduced the chances of a successful Tribunal claim, should it unfortunately come to that.
The vaccine race has intensified wealth inequality across the globe.
Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker found that the world’s wealthiest countries are vaccinating at 25 times the rate of the poorest countries. The database has thus far tracked more than 726 million doses administered in 154 countries.
So far, per the tracker, about 5% of the global population is able to get fully vaccinated. But the vaccines have been unevenly distributed, with 40% going to 27 wealthy countries that comprise 11% of the global population and 1.6% going to the countries comprising the poorest 11%.
Consider Pakistan. It has 2.7% of the world’s population, but has only received 0.1% of the vaccines. Meanwhile, the US, which accounts for 4.3% of the world’s population, has nearly a quarter of the world’s vaccines.
As of Thursday, the US has vaccinated nearly 20% of its population. It’s set to have enough vaccines for 75% of Americans by the end of June, per Bloomberg.
The pandemic has widened many wealth gaps
Patchy vaccine distribution is just the latest way the pandemic is exacerbating wealth inequality. In the US, the divide between the rich and the poor deepened as the economy’s recovery turned K-shaped, with higher-earning Americans recovering and lower-income Americans continuing to struggle.
The same dynamic has manifested on a global scale. While the global economy is expected to grow by 6% in 2021, according to IMF’s World Economic Outlook, that growth is projected to be uneven. Lower-income countries are expected to see an average annual loss of 5.7% per capita GDP from 2020 to 2024, but advanced economies will see a smaller loss of 2.3% in the same time frame.
“Recoveries are diverging dangerously across and within countries,” wrote Gita Gopinath, chief economist for the IMF.
She cited an analysis from researchers at Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center that suggested these priority-supply deals between countries and drug manufacturers were undermining the World Health Organization’s initiative to equitably distribute vaccines.
The Biden administration committed $4 billion in February to Covax, a global vaccine alliance dedicated to ensuring equitable vaccine distribution, to help bolster the worldwide vaccine effort. More than 190 countries are participating.
“It’s unconscionable,” Zain Rizvi, an expert on access to medicine at Public Citizen, told Rauhala in a follow-up story. “Many countries will be lucky if by the end of the year they are close to where the US is now.”
European regulators are investigating whether Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine caused unusual blood clotting after four cases were reported in vaccine recipients, including one fatality.
The European Medicines Agency’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee disclosed Friday that they are reviewing the vaccine after three people who received J&J’s vaccine in the US and another who was involved in a clinical trial developed blood clots. It’s currently not clear if the vaccine caused these clots.
J&J said that it was working closely with experts and regulators to assess data coming in, but that so far, they have found a small number of very rare side effects.
The investigation comes as European states prepare to add the vaccine to their roster of COVID-19 shots. J&J’s vaccine was recommended for authorization by the EMA on March 11, but has not yet been distributed.
The agency stated Wednesday that blood clots can be a “very rare” side effect of AstraZeneca’s shot in people with low blood platelet levels. Approximately 169 cases of blood clots in the brain and 53 cases of blood clots in the spleen had been reported as of April 4, according to the EMA.
Issues have been popping up as J&J’s shot has rolled out in the US.
One of the factories that produces both drug companies’ vaccines is in hot water after it was reported by the New York Times that 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine had been cross-contaminated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine at a U.S. factory run by Emergent BioSolutions. None of those shots were distributed to the public.
Officials in Colorado and North Carolina stopped giving out J&J’s vaccine this week after two dozen people experienced minor adverse reactions like nausea and dizziness.
J&J’s stock traded down about 1% on Friday morning.
Japan’s first AstraZeneca vaccines are coming from the US, not the EU, after the bloc restricted vaccine exports in January, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The company had planned to import the vaccine from Europe, Tomoo Tanaka, AstraZeneca’s head of vaccine development, said in an interview with Asahi Shimbun on Thursday, Reuters reported.
But restriction on vaccine exports imposed by the EU in January led to a change in plans. Instead, Japan imported undiluted vaccines from the US, Tanaka.
Reuters confirmed the news with an AstraZeneca spokesperson.
The Japanese government has ordered enough doses of the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine for its 60 million population, around half the population, the Japan Times reported.
90 million doses of the vaccine will be produced domestically by local companies Daiichi Sankyo, JCR Pharmaceuticals Co, and others, Reuters reported.
Daiichi Sankyo said on March 12 it had started manufacturing the vaccine “using undiluted solutions provided by AstraZeneca,” the company said in a press release. It is not clear whether they were waiting on undiluted vaccine doses from abroad.
The EU announced on March 24 that it would again restrict vaccine exports for six weeks, in a bid to keep up with supply issues among the member states.
The bloc had previously said it authorized requests for millions of doses of vaccines to be shipped to 29 countries, including Japan, Reuters reported on March 5.
The US came under scrutiny when it was found that it had blocked the export of doses of the AstraZeneca shot.
Millions of doses were stockpiled in vaccine plants on US soil, even though the country had not approved the shot. As of April 1, it still has not.
Speaking on the issue of vaccine supply, President Joe Biden said at the time that Americans should be “taken care of first.”
Since then, the US has shipped doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and Canada, as a loan. Details about the conditions under which Japan has received doses from the US were not immediately clear.
Last week, AstraZeneca had to revise its US trial efficacy data downwards from 79% to 76% after US health officials said the company used outdated data in their first submission.
With both AstraZeneca and Pfizer’s shots now authorized for emergency use, the UK has twodifferent COVID-19 vaccines available to fight the pandemic. Both of them require people to get two shots, several weeks apart.
But, if people forget which one they got first, or, if providers run out of one kind or the other, the UK government is now saying: no worries.
In guidance freshly updated on New Year’s Eve, one day after AstraZeneca’s vaccine was authorized for use in the UK, the British government suggested that people may mix and match their two COVID-19 shots – and government experts even think there’s a chance people may get better protection from coronavirus infections in that way.
If “the same vaccine is not available, or if the first product received is unknown, it is reasonable to offer one dose of the locally available product to complete the schedule,” the UK’s new advice for providers reads.
However, both experts and government officials agree that mixing two vaccines together in the hopes of providing people with more robust protection from coronavirus infections is still a risky, untested strategy.
The ‘Wild West’ of vaccination campaigns
Even the British government writes in its new guidance that “there is no evidence on the interchangeability of the COVID-19 vaccines.”
“We’re kind of in this Wild West,” Dr. Phyllis Tien, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco, told the New York Times. “None of this is being data driven right now.”
“The idea is that you can maximize the strength of that immune response to protect people,” Kate Bingham, chair of the UK’s vaccine task force, said during a recent briefing.
Britain has cleared two different vaccines for emergency use so far. First, Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine was given the green light in the UK on December 2, and then AstraZeneca/University of Oxford’s followed, on December 30. Both of these vaccines were designed to be administered as two shots, given several weeks apart. But they are not the same kind of inoculation, nor were they designed to be taken together.
Pfizer’s vaccine is a new kind of messenger RNA vaccine, while AstraZeneca is using viral vector technology. Working together, it’s possible they could provide people with a solid one-two punch of both good cellular (from AstraZeneca) and good antibody (from Pfizer) virus response, as Business Insider’s Kate Duffy recently reported.
“Antibodies block the uptake of viruses into cells, and the cellular T-cells identify those cells that have been infected and take them out,” Bingham said. “You ideally want to have both.”
But John Moore, a vaccine expert at Cornell University, wants more evidence that strategy can really work before it is recommended.
Moore told the Times that officials “seem to have abandoned science completely now and are just trying to guess their way out of a mess.”
Less than 2% of the population in the UK is vaccinated, with a fast-spreading new variant on the loose
The UK has recently been slammed by more coronavirus infections, a surging wave fueled in part by what is suspected to be a fast-spreading coronavirus variant. The new variant, called B.1.1.7, is not more deadly, and experts expect vaccines will be successful at fighting it, too.
“At this stage of the pandemic, prioritizing the first doses of vaccine for as many people as possible on the priority list will protect the greatest number of at risk people overall in the shortest possible time,” UK officials said in a statement on Tuesday.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a vaccine milestone on Wednesday as COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations continue to rise.
More than 1,008,025 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have now been administered in the US, and the CDC said it has distributed 9,465,725 doses in total. The news comes just 10 days after the start of an accelerated, ambitious vaccination campaign.
“While we celebrate this historic milestone, we also acknowledge the challenging path ahead,” CDC director Robert Redfield said in the CDC press release. “There is currently a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the US, but supply will increase in the weeks and months to come.”
The CDC added that the number of vaccines distributed includes doses of both the Moderna and the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, but the tally of doses administered only includes the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Federal panels and states continue to determine who will be next in line to get the vaccine.
After approximately 24 million healthcare workers and nursing home residents are vaccinated, the CDC is recommending that frontline essential workers and people over 75 are next in line. The next priority group would encapsulate about 49 million people, including teachers, first responders, US Postal Service employees, and grocery store workers.
Ultimately, states decide the order, and a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report confirmed that a majority of states are following CDC priority group guidelines, but Nevada, New Hampshire, and Wyoming are among a handful of states prioritizing other groups, like law enforcement.
Politicians in DC, young and old, have also been among the first vaccinated.
If distribution is uninterrupted, then a quarter of Americans could be vaccinated by the spring.
“By the time we get through December, January, February, March, April, we hopefully will have been able to get to the people who are listed as priority people,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters in November. “I would say starting in April, May, June, July, as we get into the late spring and early summer, that people in the so-called general population, who do not have underlying conditions or other designations that would make them priority, could get them.”
But don’t roll up your sleeves and ready your arm for a needle just yet. Don’t throw away your face masks, either.
It will still take many more months for healthcare providers to give these new shots to enough members of the general public to make a dent in the pandemic. Here are the key milestones to watch out for.
The FDA granted its first Emergency Use Authorization
Pfizer’s vaccine authorization marks a milestone several months in the making. The company began its global trial in April, then released its final stage of data in November, before getting the FDA’s green light on Friday.
The decision to issue an emergency use authorization came after an FDA advisory committee on Thursday reviewed the safety data submitted by the company. The committee voted in favor of recommending the shot for people ages 16 and older.
The third phase of Pfizer’s trial involved more than 43,000 volunteers across six countries and 16 US states. Just eight COVID-19 cases were recorded in the group that got the vaccine, compared to 162 cases in the placebo group. Most immunized volunteers in clinical trials reported only temporary side effects like fatigue, headache, and pain at the injection site.
On Friday, the FDA determined that the benefits “outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine.”
Though there may be some slight variations across the nation, first doses are generally most likely to go to four groups of people: frontline healthcare workers, essential workers, people over 65, and those with preexisting conditions who are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections.
In December and January, roughly 50 million of the most high-priority people across the US are expected to receive vaccinations. The federal government’s Operation Warp Speed hopes to double that number by March, with 100 million Americans vaccinated and protected from disease by then.
By springtime, vaccines could be rolling out to healthy members of the general public
If those federal projections hold, roughly a quarter of the US could be vaccinated by the spring. Then, shots could become more widely available to young, healthy people.
That does not mean that everyone will be able to get their coronavirus shots by April.
“It really is a bit more complicated than that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters in November, explaining that distribution will “be a graduation over a period of months.”
“By the time we get through December, January, February, March, April, we hopefully will have been able to get to the people who are listed as priority people,” Fauci said. “I would say starting in April, May, June, July, as we get into the late spring and early summer, that people in the so-called general population, who do not have underlying conditions or other designations that would make them priority, could get them.”
He added: “This does not mean that in April everybody who is going to be wanting a vaccine who is not a priority group is going to get it. It means starting at that point, you would likely begin.”
By Memorial Day 2021, many Americans will likely have access to COVID-19 vaccines, but full coverage will require more than one shot each
By summer 2021, it’s reasonable to expect widespread vaccine access in the US. May 31 – Memorial Day in the US – could be a benchmark moment.
“What I believe is that by Memorial Day, in the US, anybody who wants a vaccine will get a safe and efficacious vaccine,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told Business Insider in November.
By the end of 2021, it may be safe to host large gatherings again if enough people get vaccinated
Both Moderna and Pfizer’s new vaccines appear to be very effective. Their reported vaccine efficacy rates, at around 95%, mean that those shots prevent more than nine in ten symptomatic infections when vaccinated people are exposed to the virus.
But the process of getting coronavirus vaccines into hundreds of millions of people across the country and around the world, developing herd immunity to the coronavirus through widespread vaccination, is likely to take many, many months.
“The moment you get a vaccine doesn’t mean you’re going to put your mask in the trash,” Maria Elena Bottazzi, a vaccine developer at Baylor College of Medicine, recently told Business Insider.
Fauci told the New York Times in November that “at least 75%, hopefully close to 80, 85%” of the country would need to be vaccinated by fall 2021 in order to get “close to some degree of normality.”
“What I would like to see is the overwhelming majority of people get vaccinated so we can, essentially, really crush this outbreak,” he said. “This is going to be a difficult task.”
“We’re going to have so many vaccines, we will not know what to do with them. More vaccines than we can possibly use” Musk told Döpfner.
So far, three different vaccines have shown promising results. In November, Pfizer was the first to announce that its vaccine successfully prevented COVID-19 in clinical trials, and the company has filed for emergency FDA authorization, which could be granted as early as December 10. Moderna and AstraZeneca are also following this process.
On December 10, a meeting of the FDA advisory committee will be streamed, and the committee will make a recommendation regarding the vaccine. It could be authorized as early as that day, with the first doses distributed 24 to 48 hours later.
During the interview, Döpfner asked Musk if any of his views on the coronavirus had changed since having it himself. “No, honestly,” he answered.
Earlier this year, Musk told journalist Kara Swisher that he and his family would not get the vaccine once one was available. On the podcast, he said that he felt he was “not at risk for COVID, nor are my kids.” Musk has instead advocated for a “natural” path to herd immunity, rather than lockdowns. More recently in the Döpfner interview, Musk said that because “vaccine technology got turbocharged,” it could lead to potential cures for cancer.