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GPs can move open Oxford vaccine vials to vaccinate housebound patients

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GPs can move open Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine vials to vaccinate their housebound patients, NHS England has confirmed.

However, open vials must be used within six hours, it added.

Last week, NHS England announced that PCN groupings can move supply of the Oxford vaccine around individual GP practices, as well as to care homes and housebound patients.

However, the guidance said that the vaccine – which comes in vials of eight or 10 doses –  ‘should not be transported once the first dose has been removed from the vial’.

Now NHS England has clarified that there are ‘no concerns from a movement stability perspective of transporting the AZ Covid-19 vaccine from house to house to support vaccination of housebound patients’.

In a statement published today, it said: ‘There have been queries around the movement of the AZ Vaccine once the vial has been punctured; we have worked with the National Infection Prevention and Control team to agree a way forward that reduces the risk of microbiological contamination of the unpreserved AZ vaccine and therefore the risk of infection to patients.’

It added that the vaccine should be used ‘as soon as practically possible and within six hours’ after the vial has been punctured, with the six-hour expiry immediately recorded on the vial.

During the ‘in-use’ period, the vaccine may be stored between 2C and 25C, although vials must be stored and moved at 2-8C ‘until first use’, it said.

NHS England also set out infection control requirements for the transport of punctured vials, including that GPs must:

  • Follow any local infection prevention and control guidance, with staff to use hand hygiene and wear a fluid-resistant surgical mask;
  • Decontaminate the vial and ‘secondary packaging’ using an alcohol wipe after vaccination and before putting it back into a bag;l
  • Decontaminate the bag only if there is ‘contamination’ or the household has a ‘known infectious pathogen’;
  • Swab the vial septum with an alcohol swap before withdrawing every dose and leave to dry for 30 seconds.

Last week, it was revealed that GPs do not need to observe patients for 15 minutes after administering the Oxford vaccine and that they may be able to extract an additional dose from vials.


Richard Greenway 21 January, 2021 2:45 pm

Surely better to draw up the vaccine in clean area (like a surgery), and take the individual syringe into a household within the 6 hr window? This can even be done in a coolbox at 2-8.
I suspect that the people producing guidelines haven’t been into many housebound peoples homes lately if they are genuinely worried about “microbiological contamination”- you really wouldn’t want to be repeatedly exposing that vial.