The elderly and all health and social care workers are set to be prioritised for a coronavirus vaccine that has proven to be more than 90% effective.
German developers Pfizer and BioNTech announced yesterday that they plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month.
Their vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said care home residents and staff were among those who should be given the jab first, followed by all those aged 80 years and over and health and social care workers.
Scroll down for the full priority list.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said today that the vaccine could be available by Christmas with a mass roll-out targeted “in the first part of next year”.
Commenting on the news, Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, said the government must work with the care sector to enable a “swift and effective roll out”.
“NCF are very pleased to hear news of a vaccine for Covid 19. The virus has hit those receiving care very hard, and for many has left them isolated and disconnected from family and friends,” she added.
“The full prioritisation list represents a major step forward in terms of recognising the urgency with which a vaccine must reach all those who receive or deliver care in all different settings. Making this vision a reality is key.”
Professor Martin Green, CEO of Care England said: “The news about the potential COVID-19 vaccine is very welcome. We are appealing to the DHSC to work with the care sector in order to outline the process so that we can iron out any logistical issues in the delivery.”
Kathryn Smith, chief executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, commented: “The news about a vaccine is encouraging, especially for people who access care services.
“It is important though to be guided by the science on any vaccine and nothing must be done in haste; we have to find the most effective vaccine programme to give us the best chance of bringing the virus under control. In the meantime, it is still vital that testing and PPE supplies are available in all care settings because infection control will still be an important issue for this virus for some time to come.”
Meanwhile, David Sinclair, director of the International Longevity Centre, has called for urgent investment in “adult immunisation infrastructure”, in order to ensure that older people on the priority list take up their rights to vaccination.
“In too many places we are already failing to deliver existing vaccinations to older people who need them,” he warned.
“We’ve had an age-related flu vaccination programme in the UK for 20 years, but we still fail to meet the WHO target of 75% uptake among older people.
“Clinical risk groups fare even worse with far too few people in these groups taking up their rights to vaccination.
“And with an overwhelmed NHS, and many ‘at risk’ groups and older people shielding or reluctant to get out of the home, it will be even harder to reach those most in need. We must double up efforts, be proactive and innovate.”
Sinclair added: “The UK remains a world leader in terms of our approach to the vaccination of older people. Government has started to build an infrastructure for delivery of a Covid-19 vaccine. We must ensure we heed the lessons of what works, based on our experience of delivering our influenza vaccination programme.
“It won’t be easy to get the vaccine out to those who need it. And we run the risk of leaving behind those who need it most if we fail to adapt our vaccine infrastructure now.”
The interim guidance from the JCVI says the order of priority should be:
- older adults’ resident in a care home and care home workers
- all those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers
- all those 75 years of age and over
- all those 70 years of age and over
- all those 65 years of age and over
- high-risk adults under 65 years of age
- moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age
- all those 60 years of age and over
- all those 55 years of age and over
- all those 50 years of age and over
- rest of the population (priority to be determined)
The final decision on the prioritisation for health and social care workers will be dependent on vaccine characteristics and the epidemiology at the start of any programme, the JCVI said.