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Decision details

Update on COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Strategies

Decision Maker: Co-operative Executive

Decision status: Recommendations Approved (subject to call-in)


The report advises Cabinet of the current position regarding COVID-19 testing and vaccination strategies in Sheffield and seeks support to continue this work.



The Director of Public Health submitted a report advising Cabinet of the current position regarding COVID-19 testing and vaccination strategies in Sheffield and seeking support to continue this work.




RESOLVED: That Cabinet:-



(a) supports the Sheffield testing strategy, which prioritises testing people with symptoms over people who are asymptomatic, as this has maximum impact on reducing disease transmission;


(b) notes that testing is only effective as part of a whole programme with all other interventions in place and working well, such as contact tracing and the ability to isolate;


(c) agrees that the approach to identifying cohorts for asymptomatic targeted testing will be based on a clear rationale;


(d) supports the piloting of asymptomatic targeted cohort testing with winter resilience business critical staff;


(e) supports the decision not to pilot community (whole town) asymptomatic testing at the moment, based on evidence from the Liverpool pilot;


(f) notes the significant resource implications of doing asymptomatic targeted cohort testing;


(g) continues to seek funding and identify other means of support for people to self-isolate, recognising that increasing adherence to self-isolation is the key to successful transmission interruption;


(h) supports communications and engagement work about vaccination programmes including the need to continue to maintain other preventative measures; and


(i) supports continuing messages on the basic prevention measures such as social distancing, limiting contact with others, face coverings and handwashing, as these remain critical to controlling the disease over the next 4-6 months.




Reasons for Decision




As discussed in sections 2.4 and 2.5 of the report, asymptomatic testing needs to be done as part of an overall testing strategy, and as part of a comprehensive programme that includes contact tracing and self isolation. Asymptomatic testing can also do harm as well as having benefit, so in considering options we also took into account current evidence of the balance of benefit to harm, to resource required, to deliver an asymptomatic testing programme.




We discounted doing no asymptomatic testing, as the current evidence suggests there may be a favourable balance of benefit to harm to cost from doing frequent repeated testing in targeted cohorts of people.




We discounted doing community testing, as the current evidence, particularly from Liverpool, suggests the balance of benefit to harm to cost is not favourable. The evidence on Lateral Flow Devices does not support one-off use with large numbers of asymptomatic people, as it does not seem to have any meaningful impact on overall infection rates at a city level, and the potential to do harm (through false negatives, false positives, and widening inequalities) is too great.




Alternatives Considered and Rejected




No alternative options were considered for the COVID-19 vaccination programme, as this is being led by the NHS under direction of NHS England




Alternative options were considered for the asymptomatic testing strategy. These were:

  • Doing no asymptomatic testing
  • Doing community asymptomatic testing (eg like Liverpool)
  • Doing targeted cohort testing (the recommended option).




Any Interest Declared or Dispensation Granted








Reason for Exemption if Public/Press Excluded During Consideration








Respective Director Responsible for Implementation




Greg Fell, Director of Public Health




Relevant Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee If Decision Called In




Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee


Publication date: 05/01/2021

Date of decision: 16/12/2020

Decided at meeting: 16/12/2020 - Co-operative Executive

Date comes into force if not called in: 24/12/2020

Call-in deadline date: 23/12/2020

Accompanying Documents: