100 GP sites start 'huge national effort' to roll out COVID vaccine from today

GPs and practice teams at 100 designated sites will become the first to receive deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine today - with some set to administer doses to patients as soon as this afternoon.

COVID-19 vaccine (Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
COVID-19 vaccine (Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Further designated sites are set to begin vaccination through the week - following suggestions from officials that as many as 280 primary care locations could be part of a first wave that gets underway this week.

Most of the first 100 practices will start vaccination on Tuesday, with each site inviting patients over 80 to have the vaccine - although the first doses will be administered on the afternoon of 14 December.

This comes despite disruption to planning after the MHRA ruled that all patients given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be observed for 15 minutes.

Residents of care homes in England will also receive their first vaccine later this week after distributors finalised new, stringent processes to ensure safe delivery of the vaccine.

In Scotland, vaccination began in care homes this morning with 90 year-old Annie Innes from Hamilton becoming the first care home resident in the country to receive the vaccine. Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said that the programme in Scotland would initially focus on residents in care homes for older adults and their carers.

COVID vaccine rollout

In England, practice teams have worked rapidly to redesign their sites and put in place safe processes to meet the tough logistical challenges of offering the vaccination. Each site will be expected to deliver 975 doses of vaccine across a 3.5-day period.

This represents the first wave of the rollout of the vaccine at GP practices, but an NHS England statement published last week suggested that they will be involved in further waves before the end of the year.

Nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other NHS staff will work alongside GPs to vaccinate those aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers and residents, identified as priority groups for the vaccine.

NHS director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said staff at practices were ‘eager to play their part’ in protecting people against the virus. She said: ‘This is the greatest vaccination programme ever undertaken by the NHS and, to help vaccinate people safely we will be working with local communities to deliver it in convenient and familiar settings.

Primary care roll

‘The community sites build on the work of the scores of hospital hubs which have already started vaccinating, with 90-year old Margaret Keenan receiving her first dose to become a global trailblazer in Coventry last Tuesday.

‘The latest phase of the vaccine roll-out is being co-ordinated by GP-led primary care networks (PCNs) with more practices and community pharmacies in other parts of England joining on a phased basis during December and in the coming months. As a GP I am proud to be part of this huge national effort to protect our patients against the virus and I would urge the public to come forward when they are called up for the vaccine.’

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said general practice had an excellent track record of delivering mass vaccination programmes despite some logistical challenges.

‘We won’t be vaccinating everyone all at once - it will be a relatively small number at first - but as long as there is supply, GPs and our teams at selected sites will start vaccinating people this week, starting with our most vulnerable patients. Patients will be contacted and invited for vaccination - we would urge them not to contact their practice enquiring about vaccination, we will contact them.’

Practice groups

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Doctors, nurses and the teams working with them, across all healthcare settings, are now at the forefront of the national rapid roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. As professionals, trusted by patients, many are already involved in the first wave of the vaccines and others are standing by to join in this unprecedented endeavour in the coming week.

‘This will be a major undertaking and now hundreds of GP practices working together in locally based practice groups will ensure that this vital vaccination campaign is carried out as swiftly as possible, providing protection to some of our most vulnerable patients, with safety and well-being at the heart of their work.’

Changes to the obversation period last week cause some GPs to warn that they could no longer meet the requirement to deliver 975 doses of vaccine within 3.5 days given the requirement to observe patients. A standard operating procedure published by NHS England says a trial run of vaccinations took eight minutes per patient - excluding post-vaccination observation.

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