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Practices will not deliver bulk of Covid-19 vaccines given this year, says Hancock

by Nicola Merrifield and Eleanor Philpotts
23 November 2020

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GP practices will not be required to deliver the majority of Covid-19 vaccinations that are administered this year, the health secretary has confirmed.

In Friday’s (20 November) Downing Street press briefing, Matt Hancock said mass vaccination centres would deliver the bulk of the programme next month – and GPs would take a more prominent role in 2021.

The health secretary also confirmed the MHRA has been asked to assess the Pfizer vaccine, representing the final step before the vaccination programme can begin.

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said at the briefing that the speed of rollout depended on manufacturing and regulatory constraints.

He said: ‘It’s in the hands of the manufacturers and the regulatory agencies around how quickly batches can be released for use if they are authorised.’

Mr Hancock said vaccination centres were being set up across the country by the NHS to ‘manage the logistical challenge’ of needing to store the Pfizer vaccine at -70 degrees.

He said: ‘In addition, it is establishing vaccination hubs in hospitals for NHS staff. These two routes are likely to comprise the bulk of the campaign this side of the new year.’

He added: ‘Then, there will be a community rollout, involving GPs and pharmacists. Last week, we asked GPs to sign up to deliver local services, and I’m really grateful that so many are coming forward.’

The health secretary also said he was ‘more and more confident’ that the chief medical officer’s hope for the country to be back to ‘normal’ by the spring would become reality.

He said: ‘The chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has said in the past that he hopes we’ll be able to get back more towards normal by the spring and with this news we’ve had over the last few weeks and with the expansion of mass testing, I’m more and more confident that he’s right.’

The health secretary said the Government had now formally asked the MHRA to review the vaccine produced by Pfizer, which earlier this month the company reported to be 90% effective. 

He said: ‘The MHRA, which acts for the entire UK, is one of the world’s most respected regulators. And I can confirm that the Government has formally asked the MHRA to assess the Pfizer vaccine, for its suitability for authorisation.

Earlier this month, Management in Practice’s sister title, Pulse, exclusively revealed that NHS officials were planning for GPs to be ready to deliver a potential Covid-19 vaccine from December.

However, LMCs warned of the ‘impossible’ requirements of the proposed Covid vaccination DES, which could put GP practices ‘contractually at risk’.

A Pulse survey later revealed around 5% of primary care network clinical directors in England said their PCN will not be signing up to the Covid vaccine DES.

Additional reporting by Costanza Pearce

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.