A British official on Thursday said that some nursing home residents may have to travel to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
“The [National Health Service], the [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency] are working really hard, right now, to try and find a solution, so that we can get this into care homes if we possibly can … at this point, there is no absolute assurance of that,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam told ITV’s “This Morning,” according to Reuters.
The UK on Wednesday became the first country to grant emergency authorization to Pfizer’s vaccine for the virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to decide on a similar authorization for the drug next week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the government is still working out the challenges of distributing the vaccine, which must be stored in extremely cold temperatures. Van-Tam said that the drug can be kept in refrigerator temperatures for up to five days, it cannot be removed from refrigeration and replaced indefinitely.
“One thing we can’t do is … end up with a vaccine that’s been handled incorrectly, and then isn’t properly viable at the end of the distribution chain,” he said, according to the news service.
Nursing home residents and workers are among those the British government has said will take priority in the initial rollout of the vaccine.
NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens added that regulators will need to sign off on splitting the vaccine’s dose packs before they can be delivered to individual facilities.
“If the MHRA … as we expect they will, give approval for a safe way of splitting these packs of 975 doses, then, the good news is that we will be able to start distributing those to care homes,” he said, according to Reuters.
Philipp Rosenbaum, the Senior Infectious Diseases Analyst at data and analytics firm GlobalData, said the UK’s size, health care system and population density, make it an “ideal” test case for distribution.
“If problems do arise, this will not bode well for distribution in countries with longer distances to vaccine distribution centers [or] less-developed infrastructure,” he said.