GPs will be prioritised for Covid vaccination based on their personal risk level, exposure and amount of contact with vulnerable people, the Government’s vaccines advisory body has said.
The UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s latest prioritisation list maintains frontline health and social care staff as the second priority, while moving the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ up to the fourth spot.
However, the JCVI added that Covid vaccination is voluntary ‘at the moment’, including for healthcare staff.
It comes as GPs are set to start Covid vaccines by mid-December as the MHRA has given approval for the delivery of the Pfizer vaccine candidate.
Speaking at a press conference this morning, JCVI chair of Covid-19 immunisation Professor Wei Shen Lim said the committee has set out ‘principles’ on the prioritisation of healthcare workers to be used ‘when deployment of the vaccine is indicated’.
He said: ‘The JCVI has advised that there are certain frontline healthcare and social care workers who should be offered higher priority.
‘These are based around their own personal risk of coming to harm or having severe illness from Covid-19, secondly the amount of exposure they have to people who have Covid-19 infection themselves and thirdly the amount of interaction they have with different people who are vulnerable and might acquire Covid-19.’
He added: ‘At the moment, there is no suggestion that the offer of vaccination should be compulsorily taken up.
‘It is always an offer of vaccination and whether someone wants to have a vaccine or not – whether they’re in the NHS or not – is at the moment a voluntary thing.’
However, Professor Lim pointed out that the JCVI ‘is not a policy-making body’ and that relevant policy will be made by ministers.
At the press conference, the JCVI presented the latest prioritisation list for Covid vaccinations as:
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- All those 80 years of age and over. Frontline health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- All those 65 years of age and over
- All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- All those 60 years of age and over
- All those 55 years of age and over
- All those 50 years of age and over
Previously, ‘high-risk adults under 65 years of age’ were the sixth priority and ‘moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age’ were the seventh.
The rest of the priority order remains unchanged.
The JCVI ‘hopes’ that 90-99% of those ‘at risk of dying’ from Covid will be ‘included or covered’ during the first phase of the vaccine rollout, Professor Lim added.
But he also warned that vaccine supply ‘will be limited in the first instance’.
He said: ‘The whole reason why a priority listing is required is that we expect during a pandemic that vaccine supply will be limited in the first instance and so vaccines should be offered in the first instance to the most vulnerable, moving down the priority list.’
It comes as the Welsh Government has said that it ‘will not be possible’ to vaccinate care home residents with the Pfizer Covid vaccine due to practical constraints, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted there were logistical problems to overcome.
Professor Lim added: We will need as many vaccines as we can get, not just in the UK but globally, and this includes more than one vaccine type in order to reach all the people who are at risk from Covid-19.’
The Government has previously reassured the public that it has secured enough vaccine stock to vaccinate all those eligible, saying that supply would not limit delivery.
Earlier this week, it announced that it has ordered a further two million doses of the Covid vaccine produced by US firm Moderna, which it expects to be ready by spring 2021.
And in its latest guidance on the vaccination programme, Public Health England said that different types of Covid vaccines can be used interchangeably if giving two doses of the same version is not possible.
Ahead of approval from the medicines regulator, NHS England published the enhanced service specifications, which said vaccinations by GPs will begin at least ten days after NHS England gives the green light.
Pulse exclusively revealed in early November that GPs were likely to start administering the Covid vaccine before Christmas.