Pfizer coronavirus vaccine ‘to be rolled out to English care homes with 50-plus beds’
The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is being rolled out to elderly residents in care homes with more than 50 registered beds in England over the next few weeks, sources say.
It follows a pilot which started last Wednesday where the jab was taken to residents and staff in a small number of care homes, believed to be seven homes.
The move was outlined at a meeting on Tuesday involving NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and care provider representatives, the PA news agency was told.
It is understood the vaccine batches are being broken down into doses of 75, and the focus over the next fortnight will be on elderly residents and staff in homes with more than 50 beds to avoid wastage.
NHS England would not say how many residents or care homes have received doses as part of last week’s pilot, but called the initial rollout a “significant step”.
It also would not say how many homes and residents will be included in the rollout over the coming weeks.
A spokeswoman for Care England, a provider membership organisation, said: “We are delighted that at the moment for the next two weeks the push will be on care homes. We want to do everything we can to get it rolled out.
“It’s important that care home residents and staff are prioritised as indicated by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).”
The Pfizer/BioNtech jab, manufactured in Belgium, needs to be stored at minus 70C to minus 80C, can only be taken out of cold storage four times, and batches contain hundreds of doses which must be broken down for use in care homes to avoid wastage.
This has created challenges in getting the vaccine to care homes, and, despite being identified as a top priority for vaccines, care home residents were not included in the initial rollout.
Sunrise of Westbourne, a care home for elderly residents in Bournemouth, is due to receive the vaccine on Christmas Eve.
Anna Selby, head of Sunrise Senior Living UK and Gracewell Healthcare’s Covid-19 task force, said: “We are really pleased, especially given all the horrible news we have been hearing in the last couple of days, this gives us hope that we can keep people protected even with the new variant virus.
“This is the best news we could have had.”
Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit social care providers, said: “The widescale rollout of this cannot come soon enough. We understand it is the number one priority for NHS and will be seeking assurance that those most in need get the vaccine first.
“A small number of homes are reporting that they have been contacted by their local GP and are gearing themselves up to be ready with sleeves up and consent forms at the ready – this is indeed a monumental moment for residents and their loved ones.”
The Independent Care Group, which represents more than 200 providers in North Yorkshire and York, said the news was very welcome, but that the Government must act “much faster”.
ICG chairman Mike Padgham said: “We understand the challenges in transporting and storing the vaccine and the impact that has on distributing it quickly.
“Nevertheless, residents in smaller homes need the vaccine too and as these homes operate on tight margins when it comes to staffing levels it is vital that they get vaccinations for their staff as a priority as well.
“At best the vaccination of staff across the country is patchy and depends largely on where you live. We need to ensure that all staff can get to hospitals or primary care network hubs to have the vaccination as soon as possible.”
NCF welcomes the news that vaccination can finally cross the threshold for care homes – meaning the priority group of residents and staff in homes can now be vaccinated.
Dr Nikki Kanani, practising GP and NHS director of primary care, said: “Delivering the vaccine to care home residents and staff across England is a significant step in the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
“Everyone has worked hard to overcome the logistical challenges associated with care home delivery and I am proud that we are now able to offer the vaccine to vulnerable residents and staff.”
The NHS said more information will be announced shortly.
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