Health chiefs are ramping up preparations to roll out a coronavirus vaccine to the nation’s most vulnerable people within three weeks, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Jon Findlay, head of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, is understood to have told a meeting last week of his executives and senior managers from other large London hospitals that a vaccine could be distributed before the end of the month.
It would be available for care home residents, the over-80s and frontline healthcare staff.
The development comes a fortnight after this newspaper revealed plans were being drawn up for frontline NHS staff to be vaccinated within weeks and the Government had introduced laws to bypass the EU approval process if a safe and effective jab is ready before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.
Health chiefs are ramping up preparations to roll out a coronavirus vaccine to the nation’s most vulnerable people within three weeks, The Mail on Sunday can reveal (stock image)
According to sources, Mr Findlay outlined during the meeting how care homes, which account for 40 per cent of the UK’s Covid deaths, would get the vaccine first.
It will be given in two doses, three to four weeks apart, but not within seven days of a flu vaccine.
This newspaper understands that Guy’s and St Thomas’, along with King’s College Hospital in South London, would become ‘vaccine hubs’ with staff recruited to become part of a ‘vaccine taskforce’.
Plans to create a network of ‘Nightingale Vaccination Centres’ are also gathering pace.
It is understood that a list of more than 500 locations, including frontline vaccination centres and back offices, will be finalised by the middle of this month and operational by December.
Sites are expected to include the Copper Box Arena in the Olympic Park, East London; Woking Leisure Centre in Surrey; and Leeds Town Hall.
A source close to the project said: ‘Existing buildings that can be repurposed, like leisure centres and warehouses, will be used, starting in areas of high infection.’
This newspaper understands that Guy’s and St Thomas’, (pictured) along with King’s College Hospital in South London, would become ‘vaccine hubs’ with staff recruited to become part of a ‘vaccine taskforce’
There is increasing optimism about vaccines going through late-stage trials. NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens last week said he was ‘ten out of ten’ certain that the health service would be able to ‘get going’ if a jab became available before Christmas.
The Government has already struck deals to buy 350million doses of the six different Covid-19 vaccines being developed.
The frontrunners – both in the final stages of human trials – are from a team at Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and from the drugs giant Pfizer in partnership with BioNTech.
Last week, Kate Bingham, head of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said 14million doses, split between the two vaccines, could be available by the end of the year if declared safe by regulators.
Meanwhile, NHS England has told doctors they will be paid £12.58 to administer each vaccine dose. The fee is 25 per cent more than for a flu jab and may provide a windfall for the profession.
NHS England said the vaccination programme could begin next month and surgeries across the country would be receiving £150 million to expand capacity.
According to the industry journal GPonline, NHS England briefing notes say: ‘We have agreed that the Item of Service fee will be £12.58 per vaccination which is 25 per cent more than the current fee for service for an influenza vaccination at £10.06.’
The documents say the higher payment recognises additional ‘training, post-vaccine observation and associated costs thereafter’ and also show that GPs have been told to prepare to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week if a vaccine is approved.
The jab will first be given to ‘at risk patients, care home residents and staff, those aged 50 and older as well as general practice staff and care home staff workers.’
About a fifth of surgeries will offer jabs at the start of the vaccination programme with the others concentrating on patients without Covid-19. St John Ambulance volunteers, including cadets aged 14 and 15, are being trained to help with logistical tasks.
Last night, an NHS spokesman said: ‘GPs will play an important part in delivering a Covid vaccine as soon as it is ready and exact arrangements, which will be announced shortly, will include funding to reflect the complex logistics and preparation required.’ Guy’s and NHS England declined to comment.