GPs must ensure they vaccinate every care home resident in their local area by the end of January, the Government has said.
An ‘army’ of tens of thousands of volunteer vaccinators are being processed ‘as quickly as possible’ to support the effort, it added.
It comes as GPs are to start delivering the ‘bulk’ of existing Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses from this week – after its launch in hospitals today – following MHRA authorisation for the vaccine’s use in the UK.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) today said it will ‘rapidly expand’ NHS Covid vaccination programmes across the UK.
It added: ‘GPs and local vaccination services have been asked to ensure every care home resident in their local area is vaccinated by the end of January.’
The Oxford vaccine is ‘easier to distribute to care homes’ than the Pfizer vaccine because it can be stored at fridge temperatures of 2-8C, it said.
Last month, NHS England announced that GPs will receive an extra £10 for every Covid vaccine dose they give to care home residents or staff, on top of the £12.58 item-of-service fee.
The extra payment was agreed due to the ‘additional time and resources needed’ to deliver the vaccination programme in care homes.
Care home residents and staff are among the JCVI’s priority groups for vaccine rollout, alongside those over 80 and healthcare workers.
But while the priority groups remain in place for delivery of the new vaccine, the gap between doses will now be extended to 12 weeks, so that as many people as possible can receive the first dose in the shortest time.
Meanwhile, the DHSC said that tens of thousands of both current and former NHS staff have volunteered to deliver vaccinations and will be deployed ‘as more vaccine supplies become available’.
It said: ‘An army of current and former NHS staff have applied to become vaccinators, with tens of thousands having already completed their online training.
‘These are being processed as quickly as possible and volunteer vaccinators will be deployed as more vaccine supplies become available.’
Health secretary Matt Hancock added that the NHS is ‘doing everything it can to vaccinate those most at risk as quickly as possible’ and urged the public to continue following the restrictions ‘while the most vulnerable are immunised’.
Last month, NHS England also confirmed that GP networks leading vaccination sites are able to access additional staff for free to support the delivery of the Covid vaccine in care homes.