‘Historic moment’ – West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock says Covid vaccines start within days
- Credit: AP
Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock says efforts are being made to ensure care home residents receive the coronavirus vaccine “as soon as possible”, as dozens of hospital hubs prepare for the start of the biggest immunisation programme in history.
People aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers, will be first to receive the jab - typically delivered by an injection in the shoulder - along with NHS workers who are at higher risk.
But there is still no guaranteed date for when care home residents will be vaccinated despite them being at the top of the priority list, with Mr Hancock saying there are “significant challenges”.
Logistical issues mean there are difficulties in getting the jab to residents, as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used.
Mr Hancock said: “This coming week will be an historic moment as we begin vaccination against Covid-19.
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“We are prioritising the most vulnerable first, and over-80s, care home staff and NHS colleagues will all be among the first to receive the vaccines.”
NHS England said NHS staff were working through the weekend to prepare for the launch of the programme with the first vaccinations happening from Tuesday.
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There are 50 hubs in the first wave – including Ipswich and Colchester hospitals – with more hospitals starting to vaccinate over the coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up.
Patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, will be among the first to receive the life-saving jab, health officials said.
Hospitals will also begin inviting over-80s in for a jab and work with care home providers to book their staff in to vaccination clinics.
Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from the virus.
All those vaccinated will need a booster jab 21 days later.
GPs and other primary care staff are also being put on standby to start delivering the jab.
A small number of GP-led primary care networks will begin doing so during the week beginning December 14, with more practices in more parts of the country expected to join on a phased basis during December and in the coming months.
Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients in sporting venues and conference centres will subsequently take part when further supplies of vaccine come on stream, officials said.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday.
“The first tranche of vaccine deliveries will be landing at hospitals by Monday in readiness.
“The NHS has a strong record of delivering large scale vaccination programmes - from the flu jab, HPV vaccine and lifesaving MMR jabs - hardworking staff will once again rise to the challenge to protect the most vulnerable people from this awful disease.”