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The new Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is being rolled out to General Practice led services today making it easier to protect care home residents and other vulnerable people against COVID-19.
The vaccine has been trialled at selected hospitals for surveillance purposes before being sent out to hundreds of community-based local vaccination services.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved, the Oxford vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures and is much easier to move, making it easier to use in care homes and to vaccinate the housebound.
Hundreds of new sites are opening at hospitals and in the community this week in the new phase of the vaccination programme, the largest in NHS history. This is on top of the 700 which were already open and vaccinating.
Seven vaccination centres will be among many more sites coming online next week, along with more hospitals, GP led services and a number of pilot pharmacy vaccine services.
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.
“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 rollout comes after the vaccine was approved for use outside of hospitals by the four Chief Medical Officers and NHS England’s Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis.
Care home residents cannot travel to hospital for a jab and Pfizer is difficult to get to hospitals so the decision will speed up the drive to vaccinate them.
Care home residents and staff were set as the highest priority group by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
In addition to the Oxford jab, local vaccination services are being issued with small packs of Pfizer jabs which can be used in care homes.
When the vaccine was first issued it had to be shipped in “pizza boxes” containing almost 1,000 doses, meaning that care homes could not be jabbed without wasting supplies.
The NHS is offering GP services an extra £10 for every care homes resident vaccinated in January in a drive to get a majority vaccinated before the end of the month.
More than one million people have already been vaccinated by the NHS in less than one month since Maggie Keenan received the Pfizer vaccine in December.
The NHS was the first health service in the world to deliver a COVID-19 vaccination outside of the clinical trial.
The NHS was also the first to deliver the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, jabbing Brian Pinker, 82, at Oxford University Hospital on Monday.
Current and former NHS staff have applied to become vaccinators, with tens of thousands having already completed their online training. They will be deployed as more vaccine supplies become available.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are accelerating our vaccine delivery plan so we can protect those most at risk from this awful disease as quickly as possible.
“The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be transported easily and I’m delighted care home residents will begin receiving their first Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs this week. 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 all 13 million people in the top four priority cohorts by mid-February. This will ensure the most vulnerable are protected and will save lives.
“As our vaccination programme ramps up, I urge everybody to continue following the latest restrictions to keep cases low and protect loved ones.”