Matt Hancock gives details of UK’s ‘mass vaccination programme’
Some started administering jabs in the afternoon while the majority will kick off today, with each aiming to complete a batch of 975 vaccines within three and a half days. Up to 200 further GP-led sites are expected to come on stream by the end of the week and roving teams are due to start visiting care homes. Gerry Hughes, 81, and wife Maureen, 84, were thought to be the first patients in England to receive the vaccine at a GP surgery. The couple, from Halesowen, West Midlands, have been married for more than 60 years and have three grandchildren.
They received their jabs together at the town’s Feldon Lane Surgery.
Maureen, a retired telephonist, said: “It means an awful lot. I can’t thank people enough who have made the vaccine possible.
“When you’ve been isolated for months, it’s great to see the product at the end – we’re just really excited.”
Brian Horne, 90, was the first person to be vaccinated at a GP surgery in Chalfont, Bucks, and was delighted when he got the call at the weekend.
He said: “I work part-time at my local church, organising lunches for other elderly people who live alone. Sadly, this has had to stop since coronavirus arrived and it is something that I deeply miss.
General practitioners around the country are joining mass vaccination efforts
“Now I have had the vaccine I hope my friends receive it so we can start to get back to seeing people again. Even at my age it is important to stay active and keep occupied, so I am hoping today is a first step back to normal life.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS director of primary care, said that preparing for the rollout had been “a real rollercoaster”.
She said: “Many of my colleagues have been working all hours through the Covid pandemic and now to finally be in a position to offer a vaccination to our community is incredibly powerful.
“As a GP I’m really quite blown away.”
GP practices are working together in local groups known as primary care networks (PCNs) to open the clinics.
However, reports suggested some had experienced delays in receiving the vaccine. One GP in Gillingham, Kent, said she had been forced to cancel 80 appointments after a delivery was delayed.
She tweeted: “It’s so sad, they’d booked taxis/families taken time off work. I even had a patient’s relative reschedule chemotherapy to be able to
Other practices were reluctant to join the programme due to workload concerns and complex requirements, such as needing to observe patients for 15 minutes after the jab.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said around 100 of England’s 1,250 PCNs were joining initially to ensure the system runs smoothly based on the availability of the vaccine.
Maureen and Gerry Hughes were thought to be the first patients to receive the jab at a GP surgery
He said: “It’s likely that each group of practices that has come together will be delivering nearly a thousand vaccines over a three-day period to start off with and then we’ll see what other supplies come our way.”
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can only be kept in a standard fridge for a short time and practices are being asked to deliver each batch of 975 doses within three and a half days.
Prof Marshall said: “The challenge with the Pfizer vaccine is that it needs to be stored at minus 70C and then moved into community settings, diluted with saline and then drawn up and injected into people who are eligible.
“So it’s quite a complicated vaccine to deliver. But we are confident, with the experience that general practice has of delivering mass vaccination programmes – the flu programme and the childhood programme – that we have the resources to do it.”
NHS England has said care home residents will also start receiving the vaccine later this week after experts finalise a process to divide and transport batches.
Annie Innes, 90, yesterday became the first resident to be vaccinated in a care home in Scotland, while people in care homes in North Wales will begin receiving the Covid-19 vaccine from tomorrow.
Meanwhile, experts issued fresh warnings about families and friends meeting for Christmas.
Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, warned that the virus “spreads like cigarette smoke” indoors.
She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The three things I’d say to people is, first, we have a vaccine right around the corner with Pfizer already being rolled out, AstraZeneca on its way.
GPs are aiming to complete a batch of 975 vaccines within three and a half days
“Within weeks people are going to be vaccinated and safe, who otherwise would be at risk.
“Secondly, NHS staff are exhausted, they are begging people to be cautious, to not get infected, because they’re the ones in the end who have to be showing up in hospital on Christmas Day, on Boxing Day and New Year’s and actually having to take care of everyone that comes through.
“And third, look at what happened in the US with American Thanksgiving [which caused a surge in Covid cases].”
Gabriel Scally, professor of public health at the University of Bristol and member of the Independent Sage health advisory group, also urged people to think about whether it was sensible to meet indoors, and warned: “No hugging.”