A further 180 GP practice sites and 100 more hospitals are due to start administering Covid vaccinations this week, joining 730 sites already set up across the UK, the Government has said.
This comes after the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine was authorised for use last week (30 December) by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The Government has secured 100 million doses of the newly-approved vaccine for the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said, with more than half of that supply available today – and ‘tens of millions more’ expected to be delivered in the ‘coming weeks and months’.
The first Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccinations – which started today (4 January) – will be delivered at hospitals for the first few days, DHSC added, ‘before the bulk of supplies are sent to hundreds of GP-led services and care homes later in the week’.
The vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, between two and eight degrees, which will make it ‘easier to distribute to care homes and other locations across the UK’, DHSC said.
It also has a refrigerated shelf-life of up to six months, according to the manufacturer.
Practice managers have previously told Management in Practice that some of the requirements of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – which was rolled out in December and needs to be stored at -70C – have made planning the Covid vaccination programme very ‘complicated’.
According to Government figures, more than a million people in the UK have already been vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
‘Accelerate vaccination programme’
On 31 December, the Government announced a policy change to delay the interval between first and second Covid vaccine doses from three weeks to up to 12, in a bid to vaccinate more people.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, as is the case with the Pfizer vaccine, will be rolled out in line with the priority order set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Matt Hancock, health secretary, said: ‘I am delighted that today we are rolling out the Oxford vaccine – a testament to British science. This is a pivotal moment in our fight against this awful virus and I hope it provides renewed hope to everybody that the end of this pandemic is in sight.
‘Through its vaccine delivery plan the NHS is doing everything it can to vaccinate those most at risk as quickly as possible and we will rapidly accelerate our vaccination programme.’