NHS England has confirmed that GP sites will begin to administer vaccines in the week beginning 14 December - in a first wave that would mark 'the beginning of a general mobilisation of practices from their designated sites'.
At least one GP-led designated site is being set up in each of the 1,250 primary care network (PCN) areas across England.
However, GP leaders have been told that 280 designated sites will be part of the first wave - suggesting sites will go live next week in less than one in four PCN areas. Sites chosen to be part of the first wave will be contacted on 7 December by NHS England.
Deliveries of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are expected to arrive on or close to 14 December, LMCs have reported, with vaccination to begin the following day.
Each site will be expected to deliver 975 doses of vaccine across a 3.5-day period - suggesting that in total, the 280 sites will administer 273,000 doses of vaccine next week.
NHS England has said these sites initially will focus on patients in the over-80 cohort who are able to attend for a vaccination. Patients in this age group could also be vaccinated at one of 50 hospital hubs across England if they visit hospital for an outpatient appointment or if they are being discharged from hospital, and care home staff are also being offered vaccination at these sites.
Scotland has confirmed that vaccination of patients in care homes - in the top priority group identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) - will begin next week, but in England the government has yet to set a date, admitting that 'getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to care home residents is challenging because of the requirements for transporting it and the temperature at which it is stored'.
NHS England has said it is working with CCGs to select sites that can be ready to start administering vaccine from 14 December.
It has suggested that areas with a higher proportion of patients aged over 80 and factors including deprivation will be taken into account when choosing which sites go live first.
A letter from NHS England on Friday said: 'We are working closely with CCGs to identify sites that will be ready to deliver vaccinations in that week; the number of sites coming on stream initially will vary by CCG according to the proportion of its population over 80, reflecting the priority groups selected by JCVI. CCGs have been asked to consider inequalities and deprivation when selecting sites.'
LMCs have said they expect further sites to follow rapidly behind those in the first wave. A newsletter from Wessex LMC says it expects further updates from NHS England setting out 'full details of vaccine supply dates, delivery of other consumables and equipment to the site, and the process for assuring readiness before delivery of vaccines' on 7 December.
NHS England has said each site will be provided with IT equipment, a fridge and freezer, access to necessary training and further support.
The Wessex newsletter said confirmation from the Scottish health minister - reported last week by GPonline - that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be 'moved sites up to twice in any 12-hour
period, once thawed' makes it 'suitable to be transported undiluted and used in a care home'. However, because the vaccine 'cannot be moved once it is diluted' it is 'not suitable for the housebound because of the potential waste', the newsletter added.