A Patchwork: Europe and COVID-19 Vaccination Passports

(Reuters) – European Union leaders moved closer on Thursday to an agreement on certificates showing that citizens have been vaccinated against COVID-19, a move that could revive international travel and save this summer’s holiday season.

Some countries want an EU-wide approach instead of a patchwork of national schemes that in many cases are not intended to serve as travel documents. Halfway through a summit of leaders on the pandemic, officials said “convergence on a harmonised approach” to certificates was emerging.

Here’s where several EU member states and other European countries stand on vaccination certificates:

BETTER TOGETHER

GREECE has led calls for an EU-wide vaccine certificate to open up summer tourism. It has reached an agreement with Israel, which has launched a digital “Green Pass”, to ease travel for those with proof of vaccination. It issues certificates for people who have had twin shots.

Athens is in talks with Britain about a similar agreement, but its tourism minister was quoted as saying on Thursday that even unvaccinated Britons could visit the country.

SPAIN, AUSTRIA and BULGARIA also support a common EU approach. The government in Vienna says that, if there is no agreement at EU level by the spring, it will implement its own plan.

DOING THEIR OWN THING

DENMARK plans to launch a digital passport to document a traveller’s vaccination status, designed to be compatible with any future EU-wide scheme. SWEDEN plans a similar digital passport by summer, assuming an international standard is in place by then, as does FINLAND.

HUNGARY has announced that from March 1 it will issue a vaccination passport in the form of a card to citizens who have had the vaccine or have immunity after recovering from COVID-19. A decision about possible waivers from coronavirus restrictions will be taken later. People carrying the immunity passport will not have to go into quarantine.

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin ordered his government in January to consider issuing certificates to those who had been inoculated with domestic vaccines against COVID-19 for overseas travels.

THINKING ABOUT IT

BRITAIN is reviewing how COVID-19 status certificates could help reopen the economy. It will consider a system allowing vaccinated individuals to travel abroad more freely once more is known about the efficacy of vaccines against COVID-19 variants. The UK is working with the World Health Organization and other countries on an international framework for travel.

PORTUGAL is considering various options to resurrect the travel sector, but has cautioned that an EU-wide passport could lead to “some constraints” given delays in vaccinations.

WE HAVE OUR DOUBTS

GERMANY, which has restricted travel from neighbours with high rates of infection, is still in the early stages of debating the idea of vaccination certificates. There are widespread concerns that these could result in discrimination against those who choose not to be vaccinated.

ROMANIAN President Klaus Iohannis has said an EU vaccination passport would be divisive, splitting Europe between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

NO PLANS YET

POLAND has introduced a special QR code via its mObywatel app that can be scanned to confirm a user has been fully vaccinated, meaning they have received two doses. It has not yet said if it will introduce a specific vaccination “passport”.

FRANCE has not revealed any plans for a vaccination passport of its own, though travel industry lobbies and some opposition politicians have been pressing for such a scheme. ITALY does not have a national vaccination passport scheme.

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$52 Million Campaign to Push COVID Vaccinations

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Ad Council and COVID Collaborative launched a campaign on Thursday to encourage Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available for them, marking one of the largest public education efforts in the U.S.

More than 300 major brands, media companies, community-based groups, faith leaders and medical experts are championing the campaign. Adobe, Disney, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Spotify, Twitter, Verizon, and YouTube have put their support behind it, as well as the NAACP, NBCUniversal, Telemundo, UnidosUS, ViacomCBS, and the Black Information Network.

The campaign emphasizes the message “It’s Up To You” to get vaccinated. Created in partnership with the CDC, the platforms at GetVaccineAnswers.org (and DeTiDepende.org in Spanish) provide the latest information about COVID-19 vaccines and answer frequent questions that people may have. Content is available in seven languages: English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Russian, Haitian Creole, and Vietnamese.

“We’re listening to America’s top questions, understanding their concerns, and working to educate and empower people across the country — particularly communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic — so they can make an informed choice about vaccination for themselves and for their families,” Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council, said in a statement.

The Ad Council has launched a series of national coronavirus public service announcements during the past year, including the Mask Up America campaign, and messages about social distancing and fighting loneliness during the pandemic.

The campaign, which is funded by $52 million in private donations, is aimed at building vaccine confidence and clearing up questions about how safe COVID-19 vaccines are and how well they work. About 71% of Americans say they’re willing to get a vaccine, according to a Gallup poll done at the end of January, including 9% who said they already received at least one dose of a vaccine.

At the same time, about 40% of Americans still haven’t made a firm decision about vaccination, according to an Ad Council/Ipsos Public Affairs poll done this month. The poll also showed that only 40% of people in Black and Hispanic communities said they have enough information to make a decision about getting a vaccine, as compared with 60% of the overall population. In addition, about 75% of people who are hesitant about getting a vaccine said they want more information to address their questions, even if they’re not yet eligible to receive a vaccine.

Getting more people vaccinated will get the country closer to herd immunity, and closer to people returning to their pre-pandemic routines. According to CDC data, white Americans have received 60.4% of vaccines, compared to 5.4% for Black Americans and 11.5% for Hispanic Americans. More than 66.5 million doses of the vaccine have been given so far.

“Just as we are taking action to address the inequities this pandemic laid bare, we need a concerted approach to bring an end to the pandemic and to leverage the lessons learned during COVID-19 to achieve optimal health for all,” says Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC.

The CDC brand will be on several parts of the campaign, and officials from the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services will provide scientific guidance throughout the initiative.

“Our goal is to help the Black community get the facts, despite their inherent distrust in the government and medical community, and help them make an informed decision about COVID-19 vaccines,”  Kelli Richardson Lawson, CEO of JOY Collective, which created content for the campaign, said in a statement.

The campaign will engage the faith community as well through the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and more than 20 influential leaders across U.S. faith communities.

The campaign will begin to appear nationwide this week on broadcast TV, digital platforms, radio, and social media.

More initiatives will roll out over the coming weeks.

Sources:

Ad Council: “It’s Up To You,” “Mask Up America.”

Gallup: “Two-Thirds of Americans Not Satisfied With Vaccine Rollout.”

Hispanicize: “DeTiDepende Special Edition.”

Morbidity and Mortality Report: “Demographic Characteristics of Persons Vaccinated During the First Month of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program — United States, December 24, 2020-January 14, 2021.”

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White House Working With Facebook and Twitter to Tackle Antivaxxers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House has been reaching out to social media companies including Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s Google about clamping down on COVID misinformation and getting their help to stop it from going viral, a senior administration official said.

President Joe Biden, who has raced to curb the pandemic since taking office, has made inoculating Americans one of his top priorities and called the move “a wartime effort.” But tackling public fear about taking the vaccine has emerged as a major impediment for the administration.

Since the onset of the pandemic, calls from lawmakers asking the companies to tackle the spread of COVID misinformation on their platforms have grown.

The White House’s direct engagement with the companies to mitigate the challenge has not been previously reported. Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain has previously said the administration will try to work with Silicon Valley on the issue.

“Disinformation that causes vaccine hesitancy is going to be a huge obstacle to getting everyone vaccinated and there are no larger players in that than the social media platforms,” said the source, who has direct knowledge of the White House’s efforts.

“We are talking to them … so they understand the importance of misinformation and disinformation and how they can get rid of it quickly.”

The Biden White House is especially trying to make sure such material “does not start trending on such platforms and become a broader movement,” the source said.

The source cited the example of the anti-vaccine protests at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in early February, and said the White House wants to stop events like that from happening again.

The protest, organized on Facebook through a page that promotes debunked claims about the coronavirus pandemic, masks and immunization, briefly blocked public access to the stadium – one of the largest vaccination sites in the country, where health authorities are administering more than 8,000 vaccines a day.

The event illustrated the extent to which social media platforms have become a critical organizing tool for movements such as the anti-vaccine drive, that spread misinformation and disinformation.

A growing number of anti-vaccine activists, emboldened by their rising social media following, have helped the movement gain strength in the United States. A report by the Center for Countering Digital Health in July 2020 found social media accounts held by anti-vaxxers have increased their following by at least 7·8 million people since 2019.

The companies have repeatedly vowed to get rid of such material on their platforms but gaps remain in their enforcement efforts.

On Thursday, Senator Richard Blumenthal criticized the platforms in a tweet for carrying ads that he said funds and promotes “dangerous conspiracy theories, COVID-19 disinformation and malign foreign propaganda.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said that the company has reached out to the White House to offer “any assistance we can provide” and has recently announced a new policy to remove COVID and vaccine misinformation along with pages, groups, and accounts that repeatedly spread such material.

A Twitter spokesman said the company is “in regular communication with the White House on a number of critical issues including COVID-19 misinformation.”

Alphabet Inc’s Google did not comment on engagement with the White House, instead pointing to a company blog on and how it stops misinformation.

The source said the companies “were receptive” as they engaged with the White House. “But it is too soon to say whether or not it translates into lessening the spread of misinformation.”

There will be more details on how the White House is engaging with the social media companies on this issue in the “next ten days or so”, the source added.

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Johnson & Johnson Has Only a Few Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses in Stock as Likely Launch Nears

(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson has only a few million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in its inventory even as likely U.S. regulatory authorization is only a few weeks away, White House officials said on Wednesday.

J&J remains committed to providing 100 million doses by June but deliveries are likely to be “back-end loaded” as J&J works with the U.S. government to boost supply, Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a press call.

“Across the last few weeks we’ve learned that there is not a big inventory of Johnson and Johnson. There’s a few million doses that we’ll start with,” Zients said.

J&J said in a statement it intends to immediately begin distributing doses upon U.S. authorization and expects to supply 100 million doses to the United States in the first half of 2021.

The United States has been struggling to hasten its vaccine rollout because of a limited supply of doses. Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc have promised to deliver 200 million doses of their two-dose vaccines by the end of March but so far fewer than 72 million doses have been shipped around the U.S. and around 55 million shots have been given.

The U.S. paid J&J $1 billion in August to help fund the development of its vaccine in exchange for a guarantee of 100 million doses and an option to buy 200 million more. It also provided J&J with $456 million in March.

The Biden administration has promised to explore every option available to aid drugmakers, including J&J, in boosting vaccine production. It said it is deploying wartime powers through the Defense Production Act to help them secure needed supplies.

J&J’s experimental shot involves a single dose and can be stored in refrigerators as opposed to freezers, which could help speed up vaccinations.

Zients said the vaccine could be authorized in a couple of weeks. It is scheduled to be reviewed on Feb. 26 by a panel of outside advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. J&J requested FDA authorization earlier this month.

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EU Adds Anti-Variant Clauses to New COVID Vaccine Supply Deals: Sources

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union is adding clauses to contracts with COVID-19 vaccine makers which would allow the bloc to gain access to possible upgraded shots that may offer better protection against variants of the virus, three EU sources said.

More contagious mutations are spreading fast in the EU and across the world, with the so-called British variant seen by experts as likely to become prevalent on the continent.

In new contracts with vaccine manufacturers, the EU is adding clauses that explicitly cover variants, three EU officials involved in talks with the companies told Reuters.

Vaccine makers are testing their shots against variants and are also working on tweaks that could make them more effective against virus mutations.

One official said the clauses would allow the EU not to buy vaccines that are not effective against widespread variants, and to order upgraded versions instead. However, the source said clauses were vague on the definition of variants and the actual legal power they would give the EU.

The three officials said that an anti-variant clause was included in a second contract finalised earlier in February with Pfizer and BioNTech for the supply of 300 million additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer and the European Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Studies have shown the Pfizer vaccine can be effective against the British and the South African variants. The company is also working on a booster shot that would be tailored against variants.

The EU now wants to add these clauses in new supply deals and is considering whether to upgrade its existing contracts, the officials said.

The bloc is negotiating new supply agreements with Novavax, Valneva and Moderna to increase its vaccine reserve beyond the nearly 2.3 billion doses which it has already secured from six pharmaceutical firms.

On Wednesday, the EU Commission will present a series of measures to boost the EU preparedness against variants, including new funds to help sequence the genome of the new coronavirus and spot variants.

Most EU countries have so far done little or no sequencing at all.

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South Africa Launches Inoculations With J&J’s Vaccine Implementation Study

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa’s drugs regulator said on Monday it had approved an implementation study of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, clearing the way to start the country’s first inoculations among frontline health workers.

South Africa has yet to launch its COVID-19 vaccination program and the government has decided to go with the J&J dose after trial results this month showed AstraZeneca’s two-shot vaccine was less effective against the new variant of the coronavirus dominating South African infections.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) “has approved the implementation study,” the regulator said in response to Reuters questions, adding it was still reviewing its separate application for full market use.

The study, similar to the final phase of a vaccine trial, will test the effects of the vaccine in the field after it is administered to 350,000-500,000 health care workers.

The first batch of J&J’s 80,000 doses is expected to arrive this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa told lawmakers on Thursday.

J&J was the first pharmaceutical major to apply to SAHPRA in December to register its COVID-19 vaccine; Pfizer and AstraZeneca have also since applied.

South Africa is the African country hardest hit by the coronavirus, accounting for over a third of the continent’s infections and almost half of the deaths, led primarily by the new, more contagious variant called 501Y.V2.

SAHPRA said J&J has not yet submitted a special domestic application for emergency use authorisation of its vaccine – known as a Section 21 application. Normally valid for six months, Section 21 authorisation allows emergency use of a product that is unregistered, SAHPRA officials said.

Last week, the co-lead for the local leg of J&J’s vaccine trial, Glenda Gray, said that J&J had made a rolling submission to the regulator and its application was “being processed for emergency use.”

Gray clarified on Monday that J&J had applied for “early access” – essentially seeking approval to use its vaccine for the implementation study. This differs from an emergency use authorisation (EUA) approval, which the company has not yet applied for, she said.

J&J did not immediately respond to an email requesting further details. SAHPRA said it was also processing J&J’s application for full market registration as part of a rolling review approach, which allows data to be evaluated by SAHPRA as it becomes available.

The rolling review is one of several methods the domestic regulator is pursuing to help fast-track vaccine approvals.

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Oxford Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Study in Children

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Oxford University is starting a COVID-19 vaccine study with children and young adults between ages 6 and 17.

At Oxford and three partner sites in London, Southampton, and Bristol, the phase 2 clinical trial will test whether kids and teens have a good immune response to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Previous trials have shown that the shot is safe in children.

“While most children are relatively unaffected by coronavirus and are unlikely to become unwell with the infection, it is important to establish the safety and immune response to the vaccine in children and young people as some children may benefit from vaccination,” Andrew Pollard, PhD, the chief investigator for the trial and a professor of pediatric infection and immunity at Oxford, said in a statement.

The new trial will enroll 300 volunteers, with up to 240 receiving the vaccine. The control group will receive a meningitis vaccine, which is safe in children and produces similar side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine, such as a sore arm.

COVID-19 vaccine trials have included children over age 12, so this marks the youngest group to be tested so far. Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen have announced plans to start trials in younger children this spring, according to The Washington Post. Widespread vaccination in children likely won’t occur until 2022, the newspaper reported.

The trial launched on Friday, and the first vaccinations are expected by the end of the month. Parents can visit Oxford’s COVID-19 Vaccine Trial website to sign their children up for the study.

“This study will play an important role in helping to protect children in the future,” Grace Li, a pediatric clinical research fellow for the Oxford Vaccine Group, said in the statement.

“We’ve already seen that the vaccine is safe and effective in adults, and our understanding of how children are affected by the coronavirus continues to evolve,” she said.

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Lack of COVID Data on People With Intellectual Disabilities

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Peter Prater’s family wasn’t thinking about covid-19 when the call came that he had been taken to the hospital with a fever.

It was April, and the Tallahassee Developmental Center, where Prater lives, hadn’t yet had any covid diagnoses. Prater, 55, who has Down syndrome and diabetes, became the Florida center’s first known case, his family said. Within two weeks, more than half of the roughly 60 residents and a third of the staff had tested positive for the virus, according to local news reports.

“We thought we were going to lose him,” said Jim DeBeaugrine, Prater’s brother-in-law, who also works as an advocate for people with disabilities. “We weren’t aware of a correlation to Down syndrome and bad outcomes with covid yet. He’s just a frail person, period.”

Peter Prater smiles for a photo before the pandemic. Prater survived a case of COVID-19 that was part of an outbreak at the Tallahassee Developmental Center in April.

Prater survived after roughly seven weeks in the hospital. But five others from the center — three residents and two staffers — died. The center is working to follow federal and state pandemic guidelines, said Camille Lukow, regional director of the Mentor Network, which began operating the facility in December.

Early studies have shown that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a higher likelihood of dying from the virus than those without disabilities, likely because of a higher prevalence of preexisting conditions. While some high-profile outbreaks made the news, a lack of federal tracking means the population remains largely overlooked amid the pandemic.

No one knows how many of the estimated 300,000 people who live in such facilities nationwide have caught covid or died as a result. That creates a blind spot in understanding the impact of the virus. And because data drives access to scarce covid vaccines, those with disabilities could be at a disadvantage for getting prioritized for the shots to keep them safe.

While facilities ranging from state institutions that serve hundreds to small group homes with a few people have been locked down throughout the pandemic, workers still rotate through every day. Residents live in close quarters. Some don’t understand the dangers of the virus. Those who need help eating or changing can’t keep their distance from others. Many facilities also have struggled to keep enough masks and staffers on hand.

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities has repeatedly asked federal agencies to hold facilities where people with disabilities live to the same pandemic rules as nursing homes, which must report covid cases directly to national agencies.

Nicole Jorwic, senior director of public policy with The Arc of the United States, a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities, said a spotlight on nursing homes makes sense. Those homes have seen more than 121,000 deaths due to the pandemic. But it’s unclear what the toll is at the facilities focused on those with disabilities.

“How do we know how big the problem is if we’re not capturing it?” she asked.

Greg Myers, a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services press officer, said in an email that states, not federal officials, manage Medicaid-funded intermediate care facilities and group homes for people with developmental disabilities. He said many of those facilities serve fewer than eight residents and don’t “pose the same concerns as larger congregate settings.”

Some states are tracking the caseloads, though Jorwic said the type of information they collect varies. New York state data revealed disability group home residents there are dying at higher rates than the general population. In Illinois — which called on the National Guard to respond to outbreaks in two of the state’s largest developmental centers in April — more than half of the 1,648 residents in state-run developmental facilities have had the virus.

Still, cases are flying under the radar. When The Associated Press did a national survey in June of how many people in such housing have fallen sick or died of covid, about a dozen states didn’t respond or release comprehensive data.

“The delay or complete lack of access to this data comes with a body count,” Jorwic said. “You’re not acknowledging that these settings are just as dangerous as other settings, like nursing homes.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend that states prioritize long-term care facilities early in the vaccine rollout, but few states specified that people with disabilities who live in group homes should be candidates for that initial vaccine distribution.

New York is one of the few that did specifically include certified-group facilities, and this month opened access to all people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“New York state has the actual data to help show the horrors of covid,” said Dr. Vincent Siasoco, a primary care physician in New York City who focuses on patients with developmental disabilities.

Instead, many states are setting priorities based on a list of high-risk medical conditions outlined by the CDC, which in December added Down syndrome to the list.

Siasoco, a board member of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry, said that likely misses people with medical risks not yet reflected in data, like someone living in a group home with cerebral palsy who gets food through a tube and can’t speak.

“More studies have to be done. Data has to be shared,” Siasoco said.

In the meantime, the academy has said intellectual and developmental disability diagnoses should be explicitly included on the list of high-risk conditions used to determine vaccine priority, and facilities housing those with disabilities should have access at the same time as nursing homes — though, Siasoco acknowledged, there’s a long line of people advocating to be prioritized and not enough vaccine to go around.

In Montana, people in group living settings including disability housing were in the phase initially right behind health care workers and nursing home residents on the list for vaccines. But the new governor, Republican Greg Gianforte, instead prioritized anyone 70 and older and those with underlying health conditions, with the goal of protecting the most vulnerable. The change nearly tripled how many people qualify for that phase of the vaccine rollout.

Group home administrators have said many of their clients may still qualify for a vaccine under the governor’s new rule because of their medical risks. The new plan also allows health providers to include people with medical conditions on a case-by-case basis.

Dee Metrick, the executive director of Reach Inc., which offers group housing in Bozeman, said the local health department is working to get shots to Reach’s residents. However, she said, the change creates more uncertainty for some people with disabilities across the state, as each county does things differently.

“We’re hoping this will unfold in their favor, but we just don’t know,” said Metrick, who added that people with developmental disabilities have historically not received proper medical care or fair treatment.

In Florida, the state’s covid vaccine plan included group living settings for those with disabilities in its early vaccine rollout to long-term care facilities.

“But there have been instances where local authorities have not gotten the memo,” said Jim DeBeaugrine, Prater’s brother-in-law, who is also the interim CEO of The Arc of Florida.

The state has faced criticism for being slower with its vaccine rollout than some expected and after some camped out in lines overnight to get a dose — something group home residents can’t do. DeBeaugrine said that how and when group homes can get vaccines to their residents varies, but all should be able to start by March 1.

By February, Prater’s family had heard he would have the option to receive a dose, but a bacterial infection has delayed him from being able to get the shot.

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Can I book a Covid vaccine? How to get yourself on the list

Christmas: Jenrick warned Covid guidance will cause ‘third wave’

Covid has killed more than 70,000 people in the UK, with fears over rising case numbers after the Christmas period. But a Covid vaccine was finally launched last week, with thousands of people already receiving their first dose of the Pfizer jab. How can you get yourself on the list for a Covid vaccine?

People across the country have come forward in their thousands to receive the Covid vaccine.

Around 200 local vaccination clinics have been launched across the UK, with that number expected to increase before the end of the month.

The Government has described the rollout of the vaccine as a “really good start”.

But you may have to wait a little while before receiving the jab yourself, as the Government has established a ‘priority list’ for the vaccine.

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Can I book a Covid vaccine?

You aren’t able to book a coronavirus vaccine yourself, according to the NHS.

Instead, you should sit back and wait for the NHS to contact you.

The health authorities should have all of your medical records on file, meaning they’ll know if you’re in one of the priority groups.

When your group is eligible for the vaccine, you should receive a letter in the post or a phone call to make an appointment.

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“The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is safe and effective,” said the NHS. “It gives you the best protection against coronavirus.

“The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.

“The vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and, from this week, hundreds of local vaccination centres run by GPs.

“The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have the vaccine. It’s important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.”

The priority list was compiled by the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The JCVI decided on priority groups based on scientific research, taking into consideration people’s age, underlying health conditions, and whether they live or work in care homes.

People living in care homes and their carers were first on the priority list, while those over 80 years old are already in line for their first vaccine dose.

There are 10 priority groups in total, with ‘healthy’ individuals under 50 years old the last to receive the jab.

The priority groups in full include:

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. all those 75 years of age and over
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals[footnote 1]
  5. all those 65 years of age and over
  6. all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  7. all those 60 years of age and over
  8. all those 55 years of age and over
  9. all those 50 years of age and over

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Coronavirus vaccine conspiracies fact-checked: Ridiculous theories causing people to think

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Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been a number of conspiracy theories linked to COVID-19. Some theories suggested the virus was engineered in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, while others followed the idea 5G telecommunication towers spread the virus. Conspiracy theories surrounding the virus have been debunked, but as significant developments in the search for a vaccine have started to emerge, so too have a number of conspiracy theories on vaccination.

Recently the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine have both demonstrated to provide effective protection against coronavirus in trials.

Earlier this month the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine proved to be more than 90 percent effective at protecting people from the virus.

The makers of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have now said the vaccine is 94 percent effective for people over the age of 65.

More than 43,000 people have taken part in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial.

Recently Pfizer and BioNTech updated their results, stating the vaccine is 95 percent effective.

US company Moderna has also stated their vaccine is nearly 95 percent effective at protecting people from coronavirus.

The Moderna vaccine trial involved 30,000 people in the US with half being given two doses of the vaccine and the other half given a dummy vaccine.

Of the 95 participants who tested positive for coronavirus, only five cases were confirmed among people who had been vaccinated.

What are some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccine?

There have been a number of conspiracy theories about coronavirus and vaccine development over the past year.

One theory has centred on the idea many of the covid vaccines in development will alter a person’s DNA.

Previous forms of vaccines often use inactive or modified forms of viruses, which when injected prompts an immune response from the body.

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As many COVID-19 vaccines in development use mRNA rather than inactive forms of coronavirus, there has been some speculation mRNA vaccines can alter your DNA.

Messenger RNA, also known as mRNA, sends instructions to the body to produce antibodies, without injecting any actual components of the virus.

Full Fact, the website run by independent fact-checkers and campaigners, have fact-checked a number of claims about coronavirus vaccination.

Full Fact state: “mRNA vaccines work by introducing a molecule into the body which instructs cells to build a disease-specific antigen.

“The antigen is then recognised by the immune system which produces antibodies to fight the real thing.

“It doesn’t change the body’s DNA or ‘wrap’ itself. mRNA vaccines are generally viewed positively as they are cheap, and don’t involve using part of a virus-like some traditional vaccines.”

Another famous conspiracy theory linked to the coronavirus vaccine surrounds Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Online theories have surfaced that suggest there are plans for trackable microchips to be implanted when people receive vaccines for the virus.

The theory was prevalent on social media, with many of the posts stating Mr Gates will “launch human-implantable capsules that have ‘digital certificates’ which can show who has been tested for the coronavirus and who has been vaccinated against it.”

In May 2020 a Yahoo News/YouGov poll found 44 percent of Republicans in the US believed the claims Mr Gates wants to use the vaccination campaign to implant microchips in people.

A number of news outlets and fact-checking sites have found no evidence of any truth to the claims.

BBC Reality Check debunked the theory, as they found no evidence to support it, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told the BBC the claims were “false”.

The conspiracy theory was based on a Reddit exchange several months ago, where Mr Gates replied to a question on what changes are needed for businesses to operate in order to maintain the economy and provide social distancing.

Mr Gates said: “The question of which businesses should keep going is tricky. Certainly, food supply and the health system.

“We still need water, electricity and the internet. Supply chains for critical things need to be maintained.

“Countries are still figuring out what to keep running. Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered or been tested recently or when we have a vaccine who has received it.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told Reuters: “The reference to ‘digital certificates’ relates to efforts to create an open source digital platform with the goal of expanding access to safe, home-based testing.”

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