Patients in England will start to get Covid-19 vaccines from their GP surgeries, health officials have confirmed.
The NHS in England said that the Oxford and AstraZeneca jab would be rolled out from GP surgeries from Thursday.
It is hoped that more than 700 sites would be delivering vaccines by the end of the week.
— NHS England and NHS Improvement (@NHSEngland) January 6, 2021
The rollout to GP surgeries is a big step forward in bringing the vaccine to the masses in the largest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS.
The Oxford and AstraZeneca Covid jab can easily fit into the usual vaccine delivery systems as it does not need special cold storage.
It also means it is easier to get into care homes and to housebound people.
Meanwhile, GPs are being offered a cash incentive to get care home residents vaccinated sooner.
As GP surgeries get the vaccine, more and more people around the country will be able to get their first jab, with a follow-up in a few weeks’ time.
The vaccine was first delivered in selected hospitals for surveillance purposes before being sent out to hundreds of community-based local vaccination services.
Officials have confirmed that seven vaccination centres will become operational next week as well as more GP-led services and some pilot pharmacy vaccine services.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said: “The biggest vaccination programme in NHS history is already off to a strong start with around one million people already vaccinated against Coronavirus – this is a credit to our exceptional NHS staff.
“GPs, nurses, pharmacists and countless other staff and volunteers have been working around the clock to be able to launch almost 200 more sites this week.
“Combined with the arrival of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, we will now be able to protect many more vulnerable people against the virus and faster.”
Officials said that in addition to the Oxford jab, local vaccination services will also be issued with small packs of Pfizer jabs which can be used in care homes.
Initially after the jab was approved there were some logistical problems because the vaccines came in batches of almost 1,000 – delivering such large quantities to care homes could have led to wastage of vital vaccine stocks.
Meanwhile, the NHS is offering GP services an extra £10 for every care homes resident vaccinated in January in a drive to get a majority vaccinated before the end of the month.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Every part of the government and the NHS are working around the clock to rapidly scale up our Covid-19 vaccination programme so we can protect those most at risk from this awful disease as quickly as possible.
“The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be transported easily and I’m delighted care home residents will begin receiving their first Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs this week.
“We are aiming to offer vaccinations to the majority of care home residents by the end of January and all 13 million people in the top four priority cohorts by mid-February. This will ensure the most vulnerable are protected and will save tens of thousands of lives.
“As our vaccination programme ramps up, I urge everybody to continue following the latest restrictions to keep cases low and protect loved ones.”
Health officials stressed that patients will be contacted when their appointment is due.
NHS staff up and down the country are working hard to vaccinate people against coronavirus.
There’s no need to contact your local NHS organisation to be vaccinated, they will contact you when it’s your turn.
— NHS England and NHS Improvement (@NHSEngland) January 5, 2021
But it comes as delivery problems with the jab were highlighted by medics on Twitter.
An NHS GP and medical journalist has said that her practice is “raring to go” but has no vaccines because of delays in the delivery of Covid jabs.
Dr Rosemary Leonard said that patients were facing a “postcode lottery”.
And from replies loads of practices across the country are in same position, is real postcode lottery for patients. There must be central supply issues- would be good to be given a truthful explanation. https://t.co/rgU4xE24Hh
— Dr Rosemary Leonard (@DrRosemaryL) January 6, 2021
She tweeted: “Covid vaccination from the front line. My group of practices was initially told we would get our first delivery on 28th December. Then 4th Jan. Then 11th Jan. Now we are ‘6th wave’ and it will be 13th, 14th or 15th Jan. We are raring to go, but have no vaccines. WHY?”
Dr Leonard added: “And from replies loads of practices across the country are in same position, is real postcode lottery for patients. There must be central supply issues- would be good to be given a truthful explanation.”
A number of doctors responded, including one who wrote: “How are we meant to book 1000 patients, without knowing the day it arrives?”