Watch the webinar
- Tony Danker, Director-General, CBI
- Ben Osborn, Managing Director and Country Manager UK, Pfizer
- Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health, University of Edinburgh
- James Harding, Co-Founder and Editor, Tortoise Media (Chair)
Tony kicked off the webinar with a short update on Brexit:
- He reiterated the importance of guidance for businesses and ‘smoothing the cliff-edge’ as we approach the end of transition.
- Continuing to work with government via the CBI’s Brexit Taskforce chaired by Michael Gove on problem-solving and resolution.
- The CBI will be running a service over Christmas, and a CBI @10am webinar next week and to keep you as informed as we can.
- Pragmatic about guidance and we will be here to help you interrogate it.
- Turning to the topic of today’s webinars on vaccines, Tony identified four key questions on businesses minds:
- Should employees be doing employee engagement on the vaccine to increase confidence?
- What is the interplay with testing and vaccine?
- What are the timeframes?
- Can business help with the vaccine?
- Tony also highlighted how employers are keen to play a role in supporting the ‘health of the nation’ and have pivoted to focusing on ‘wellness’ during the pandemic.
- He recognised that in a world of annual/seasonal vaccination, the strength of business can be a great distribution network.
- Pfizer/BioNTech is one of many vaccine programmes in development, and we’ll need multiple vaccines.
- Pfizer’s is an MRA vaccine – 2x doses over 21 days. It’s a ‘genetic signal’. Efficacy of 95% in a very diverse population in terms of race, age, ethnicity and globally.
- Right now, one of the key questions is whether vaccination prevents transmission - and we will only know in time.
- Testing will remain a very important partner for vaccine programmes.
- Safety is at the forefront of every vaccine development programmes. All trials are independently assessed and overseen in the UK by the MHRA.
- Regulators have not reduced threshold but worked in a more agile way, where they performed a rolling review of the data in real-time, rather than all at once at the end of the trials.
- Ben highlighted that businesses will play a big role in increasing confidence in the vaccine, and challenging misinformation.
- While we cannot mandate vaccination, it is important that employers are providing appropriate facts and support to employees around vaccination. Not just around Covid vaccine, but also the seasonal flu jab.
Professor Devi Sridhar
- Vaccines are really exciting. The UK has invested in 7 different vaccines, but that doesn’t mean we can lift all restrictions.
- Roughly 80-90% of the population need to be vaccinated for ‘herd immunity’.
- Importance of concurrent mass testing, in particular rapid-antigen tests, will take us much further and will make us better at isolation.
- Devi identified the case of Slovakia who tested their adult/teenage population over a weekend. Those who tested positive went in isolation, and everyone was tested again a few days later. They managed to avoid a prolonged lockdown.
- There sill are limitations when it comes to testing. Asymptomatic people will have less ‘viral load’ and may not receive positive result - or will take a few days to test positive.
- She highlighted that we’re likely to see a divergence between countries. The UK and most of Europe will feel like we’re through the worst by next summer due to the fact that we have the ability to invest and stockpile for different vaccines, but other countries may not.
- Also, restrictions are likely to be in place for a long time, but the hope is that by next summer, we can have restrictions similar to East Asia – more moving around but keeping face coverings. Next winter, people will hopefully have a more normal Christmas.
- If we find that vaccines stop transmission, that will speed things up.
- Children are a difficult one. They haven’t been trialled yet and we can’t just let virus go through children as it can cause inflammatory disease and ‘long-covid’.
- We don’t know how long immunity from virus or the vaccine, and we should plan for mutations.