Around 50 hospital hubs will begin administering Covid vaccinations to care home staff and the over-80s next week as part of a ‘phased’ rollout, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has said.
He also confirmed that GPs will start vaccinating patients as part of the second phase of the rollout.
Speaking in yesterday evening’s coronavirus briefing, Mr Stevens expressed optimism over the approval of the Pfizer Covid vaccine but warned caution as deployment would need to happen in a ‘phased’ manner.
Setting out the details, he said: ‘The phasing of delivery, the way we will do it, is that next week around 50 hospital hubs across England will start offering the vaccine to the over-80s and to care home staff and others identified by the JCVI.
‘That will then be followed, in the subsequent weeks, with GP practices coming together in each area to operate local vaccination centres.’
Mr Stevens said this will then ‘grow to over a thousand places right across England where GPs will be in touch with their at-risk patients, inviting people to come forward for vaccination’.
‘We’ve had an excellent response from GPs across the NHS wanting to participate in this programme, and as the extra vaccine becomes available, we will be able to turn on more of those GP-led clinics,’ he added.
However, in order for care homes to be able to receive the vaccine, MHRA will need to update its recommendations for handling the vaccine, which comes in batches of 975 doses that need to be moved and stored at -70C.
Mr Stevens said: ‘And then if the MHRA, the independent regulator, as we expect they will, give approval for a safe way of splitting these packs of 975 doses, then the good news is that we will be able to start distributing those to care homes.’
‘Finally’, Mr Stevens added, NHS England ‘will be able to switch on large vaccination centres across the country, and indeed invite local community pharmacists – probably at the beginning of January – to begin to offer vaccination as well’.
He also stressed the NHS will contact patients if they are eligible for a Covid vaccination, and said vulnerable patients would be vaccinated over the coming months up to April as part of the phased rollout.
Yesterday, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey called on the Government and NHS England to provide clarity on ‘how exactly practices will be involved’ in the first phase of delivery ‘given the much-publicised practical restraints around storage and transportation’ of the Pfizer vaccine.