LONDON — The U.K.’s National Health Service will begin the first Western mass immunization program against coronavirus on Tuesday, with the elderly and care home workers first in line for the jab.
Following approval on December 2 by the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the first doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine have arrived in the U.K. from Belgium and 50 vaccination “hubs” at hospitals have been set up. The NHS says that people over 80 who are attending hospital as outpatients as well as those being discharged from hospital will be among the first to receive the vaccine.
In a statement today, the NHS said that hospitals will also begin inviting others over 80 for the vaccination and that it would “work with care home providers” to book their staff into vaccination clinics.
While care home residents were meant to be among the first to receive a vaccine, the government said on December 4 that getting the vaccine to residents is “challenging” and details on how this will work have not yet published. Instead, only care home staff will be able to be vaccinated in the hospital hubs.
From the week beginning December 14, community vaccination by general practitioner-led networks will begin on a small scale.
The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. It can then be thawed out and stored in a refrigerator for up to five days.