CARE home workers and the over-80s will now take priority for the Covid vaccine over NHS staff.
It was thought NHS workers would be prioritised for the Pfizer/BionTech jab when it is rolled out next week across 50 hospital hubs.
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Care home workers and those over 80 will now be given the coronavirus vaccine firstCredit: Alamy
But hospitals will instead begin immunising care home staff, residents and hospital inpatients and outpatients aged over 80 first.
The decision came as Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS providers, sparked confusion over the number of doses of the Pfizer vaccine that will arrive by the end of the year.
He said that the initial 800,000 doses – which is enough to vaccinate 400,000 people – “could be the only batch we receive for some time.”
Sean Marrett, chief commercial officer of the vaccine creator BioNTech, said on Wednesday the UK was likely to get at least five million doses by the New Year.
Mr Hopson posted a series of tweets and said that care home workers and the over-80s would now be prioritised over health service staff in the next few weeks.
He said: “JCVI prioritisation clear. Care home residents and their carers. Then over-80s and frontline health/care workers.
“Yesterday’s combination of JCVI prioritisation/MHRA authorisation conditions [on the vaccine’s licence] therefore changes previous, unofficial, assumption [that] hospitals would concentrate initially on staff.”
Mr Hopson also said: “Our expectation is that the small number of NHS staff who have been booked for a vaccine will receive it, but hospitals will review those bookings in light of the JCVI guidance on prioritising the most at-risk staff.”
It’s expected that some care home residents and their carers will travel to hospitals to be vaccinated.
It comes after hopes were raised last night for millions of grandparents to be vaccinated within weeks after the first Covid jabs arrived in Britain.
Lorries loaded with the vaccine travelled from Puurs, Belgium, to a warehouse in the north of England yesterday.
The “game-changing” jab from Pfizer/BioNTech will be distributed to 50 hospital hubs.
And officials are increasingly confident millions of elderly people — including those in care homes — will get it by Christmas.
Last night regulators indicated they will allow packs of 975 doses to be split so they can be taken to individual homes.
This would remove a major barrier to distribution.
Health chiefs have said current restrictions around the vaccine have created a “logistical nightmare”.
It must be transported at -70C, moved only four times and given from a tray of 975 vials that cannot be split.
‘GENUINE GAME CHANGES’
A typical care home has just a few dozen residents meaning hundreds of the vials costing around £15 each would be wasted.
A hospital boss said: “Most care homes are within reach of our local hospitals, so, if we can get to the point where this vaccine can be broken up I think we’re in a different position.
“The other thing to think about is, if and when the Oxford vaccine gets into play, it’s a different game as well — we’ll just move into a completely different gear.
“So, I think, we are on the edge of real genuine game changes.”
The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab — which is cheaper and easier to store — could be available in less than a week if it passes through the appraisal process as rapidly as Pfizer’s.
Regulator MHRA began its final assessment of the Oxford jab a week after Pfizer’s — which was approved on Wednesday.
On Thursday, America’s top medic Dr Anthony Fauci accused the UK of “rushing” its approval of the Covid vaccine – and said it had joined the race at the “last” mile.
His comments will be rebutted today, however, as June Raien, head of the MHRA body that approved the vaccine, conducts a round of media interviews to prevent damage to public confidence in the jab.
The UK has ordered 100million doses of the Oxford vaccine and 40million from Pfizer — with 800,000 arriving from its Belgian factory by the end of next week.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said care home residents and staff should be vaccinated first, followed by over-80s and NHS workers.
The hospital hubs will start vaccinating from Tuesday.
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