Residents of care homes are being vaccinated
GP surgeries will get a £10 bonus for every care home resident they inoculate. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Every part of the Government and the NHS are working around the clock to rapidly scale up our Covid-19 vaccination programme so we can protect those most at risk from this awful disease as quickly as possible.”
The Oxford University/ AstraZeneca vaccine has been seen as the major breakthrough in the battle against coronavirus as it is much easier to store than the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which was the first to be approved but needs to be stored at -70C (-94F).
One in ten care home residents have been inoculated so far, along with 14 percent of the staff who look after them.
Mr Hancock says he hopes most residents will be vaccinated by the end of this month.
Delighted will also make it easier for doctors to vaccinate people who are housebound. Mr Hancock said: “The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be transported easily and I’m delighted care home residents will begin receiving their first jabs of it this week.
The Nightingale Clinic in east London
“More than 1.3 million people have already been vaccinated in the UK, including 23 percent – or over 650,000 – of the over-80s in England.
“We are aiming to offer vaccinations to the majority of care home residents by the end of January and all 13 million people in the top four priority cohorts by mid-February.
“This will ensure the most vulnerable are protected and will save tens of thousands of lives.”
He added: “As our vaccination programme ramps up, I urge everybody to continue following the latest restrictions to keep cases low and protect loved ones.”
The distribution of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca comes after it was approved for use outside hospitals by the UK’s four chief medical officers.
Around 1,000 GP and hospital sites will be offering jabs in the next few days.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said: “The biggest vaccination programme in NHS history is already off to a strong start with around one million people already vaccinated against coronavirus.
“This is a credit to our exceptional NHS staff.
“GPs, nurses, pharmacists and countless other staff and volunteers have been working around the clock to be able to launch almost 200 more sites this week.
The COVID-19 virus
“Combined with the arrival of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, we will now be able to protect many more vulnerable people against the virus and faster.”
The NHS was the first health service in the world to deliver a vaccination against the virus outside of a clinical trial. More people in the UK have already been vaccinated than in the rest of Europe combined.
Current and former NHS staff have applied to become vaccinators, and tens of thousands have completed their online training.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of the membership organisation Care England, said: “It is really positive news that the vaccine is being rolled out to care home residents and staff, and we hope that it will continue apace.
UK Coronavirus map
“It would be useful to have concrete confirmation that the supply routes will deliver the numbers needed, alongside frequent communication from central government to the care sector.
“One way to help the rollout might be to allow care home nurses to administer the vaccine, but we understand that there are issues around indemnity which don’t seem to apply for NHS staff.”
News of the rollout came after vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi promised a “massive acceleration” in coronavirus inoculations.
Health teams will be working long shifts seven days a week to administer doses to the four groups seen as priorities: the over 70s, older care home residents, the most clinically at-risk and frontline health and care workers.
Mass vaccination centres will open at seven sites next week, including sports venues and London’s ExCel convention centre.
The other dedicated centres are being set up in Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage to speed up the programme.
Mr Zahawi said there will be a “massive acceleration” in numbers vaccinated with a “Herculean” effort to boost numbers.
“We’ve got a fantastic team working, seven days a week, all hours to deliver this,” he added.
“No doubt, it is a stretching target. But I think it’s one that we should absolutely look to deliver.”
Mr Zahawi said the vaccination target was “ambitious” but the NHS had a “very clear plan and I am confident that we can meet it.”
He added: “You will see from Monday a significant increase from the 1.3 million that we have done from December 8,” he added.
Hospitals and GPs have already been carrying out vaccinations, and Mr Zahawi said pharmacies will eventually also be used to give the jabs as well.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society urged the Government to involve local chemists more quickly.
President Sandra Gidley said there were thousands of high street pharmacies who were “ready, willing and able” to assist in the rollout of the programme.
She added that some larger pharmacies were already involved, but they had to be able to guarantee they could deliver at least 950 doses per day under the Government’s current rules.
She said: “We are already used to delivering the flu vaccine.
You have got an army of trained vaccinators who are ready, willing and able to play a part.
“With the AstraZeneca vaccine there is no reason why that could not be delivered through community pharmacies.
“There are over 11,000 pharmacies. If each of those does 20 a day, that is 1.3 million a week extra vaccines that can be provided, very often to those who are hardest to reach. Why would any government not want to do that?”