GPs to start COVID-19 vaccination next week

GPs at 280 sites will begin delivering the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from 14 December, NHS England has confirmed.

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was given authorisation for temporary supply in the UK last week. | GETTY IMAGES

GP leaders have been told that 280 designated GP-led sites will take part in the first wave of COVID-19 vaccination.

Deliveries of the vaccine are expected to arrive on or close to 14 December, LMCs have reported, with vaccination to begin the following day.

Each site will be expected to deliver 975 doses of vaccine across a 3.5-day period - suggesting that in total, the 280 sites will administer 273,000 doses of vaccine next week.

NHS England has said these sites initially will focus on patients in the over-80 cohort who are able to attend for a vaccination. Patients in this age group could also be vaccinated at one of 50 hospital hubs across England if they visit hospital for an outpatient appointment or if they are being discharged from hospital, and care home staff are also being offered vaccination at these sites.

Scotland has confirmed that vaccination of patients in care homes - in the top priority group identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) - will begin next week, but in England the government has yet to set a date, admitting that 'getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to care home residents is challenging because of the requirements for transporting it and the temperature at which it is stored'.

GP-led sites

NHS England has said it is working with CCGs to select sites that can be ready to start administering vaccine from 14 December.

It has suggested that areas with a higher proportion of patients aged over 80 and factors including deprivation will be taken into account when choosing which sites go live first. LMCs have said they expect further sites to follow rapidly behind those in the first wave.

Patient-specific direction

In a document published at the weekend, NHS England said a patient group direction (PGD) for the COVID-19 vaccine will not be in place at the start of the vaccination programme, meaning that GPs will need to assess and authorise for vaccines to be administered to each individual patient under a patient-specific direction (PSD).

A PSD requires a GP or independent nurse or pharmacist prescriber to give 'authorised instruction' to administer a vaccine to an individually named patient. Each patient should be assessed by the authorising prescriber before they are vaccinated.

'The prescriber must have adequate knowledge of the patient’s health and be satisfied that the medicine to be administered serves the individual needs of each patient on that list,' the document said.

There are no restrictions on who can administer the vaccine, but the prescriber 'takes full accountability and responsibility for the patient and the members of staff administering the vaccine', the document added.

NHS England said it is supporting the relevant organisations to complete the development of a PGD, but the use of a PSD would be necessary as 'a short-term interim step'.

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