Vaccine is the key to emerging from COVID-19

Published: Friday 15th January 2021

An update from our CEO Raina Summerson

I know the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and national lockdown undoubtedly mean more challenging months lie ahead for all of us – on top of an already extraordinary past year – but there are positive times ahead.

The roll-out of the vaccine, with care home residents and teams followed by other frontline care workers at the top of the list, is clearly the key to emerging from the current pandemic, and I would urge everyone possible do their part by getting the vaccine as soon as it is offered to them.

Sincere thanks and gratitude

Before I go on to talk a bit more about the vaccine, I would like to express my enormous gratitude for the incredible commitment, resilience and compassion shown by all our fantastic care teams in these quickly changing and difficult times for us and those we care for.

Getting the vaccine

Sam Impey having COVID vaccine

The aim is for care home residents and their teams to be vaccinated by the end of January, with remaining care workers vaccinated as soon as possible in February. Our home care, extra care, supported living, live-in and other team members are also starting to be vaccinated as part of the roll-out and this will gather speed in coming weeks too.

It’s worth saying that we still get very little notice about which locations will be offered vaccinations when, or how, but we will let you know as soon as we do. Please be prepared to be called up at short notice, and have your NHS number to hand if at all possible.

The positive response we’ve had as more and more of our incredible teams are offered vaccinations every day is incredibly pleasing. It will help keep you and those close to you safe, as well as helping to protect those you care for.

I know these changing times can be unsettling and there’s lots of information on social media and on the news about COVID-19. So, I thought that it would be worth just reassuring you about the stringent testing and development work that goes into a vaccine before it can be officially released.

Vaccine approval

The world’s scientific community and regulatory bodies have all been focused on finding and delivering life-saving solutions as quickly as possible to the COVID-19 pandemic. The technology used to create the sort of vaccines approved against COVID-19 began development in the early 1990s, so has nearly 30 years of research work underpinning it.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has to work within the same legal rules and apply the same high standards before approving a COVID-19 vaccine as it would for any other vaccine.

MHRA says that the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines meet (and indeed exceed) the agreed requirements for safety and efficacy for approval to be used.

And robustly tested

Usually a Phase 3 clinical trial to assess if a new drug works and is safe, involves testing on 1,000-5,000 people.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was tested on more than 42,000 volunteers; the Moderna vaccine on more than 30,000 volunteers; and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on more than 10,000 volunteers. So, all have been tested far more extensively than is normal.

The main difference from normal is that it was agreed to review test results in real-time, rather than waiting for a large report to be produced and examined at the end of the trials. This helped reduce the time from testing to approval and use.

Public Health England has produced a leaflet with information and FAQs especially for health and social care workers

So far, feedback suggests that most people have a bit of a sore arm after the vaccine, plus some tiredness.

There is also some mis-information about contents of the vaccine which can affect how some religious groups view it, as reported by the BBC.

Help and support is always available

If you have any concerns or questions about having the vaccine, and we know not everyone is able to for medical or other reasons, please do talk to your line manager or HR about it.

Our progress with the vaccine is exciting news, but there’s no doubt that times will be tough for all of us for some time. I would like to remind all team members that as well as many colleagues who are there for you, Agincare has the employee assistance programme in place to help anyone who may be finding things difficult at the moment.

You can find more information, including FAQs for care teams on our website. As ever, I really do welcome your feedback whether it’s about our updates, your own situation or your ideas about what more or differently we could do.