Hundreds of local vaccination services run by family doctors and their teams will open across England this week, as the roll out of the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history gains further momentum.
Practices in more than 100 parts of the country are taking delivery of the vaccine today, with some kicking off their clinics this afternoon and the majority starting on Tuesday.
Groups of health providers are setting up local vaccination centres in villages, towns and cities covering every part of the country.
Nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other NHS staff will work alongside GPs to vaccinate those aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers and residents, identified as priority groups for the life-saving vaccine.
Along with other countries in the UK, residents of care homes in England will also receive their first vaccine later this week after distributors finalise new, stringent processes to ensure safe delivery of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
Like hospital staff, who launched the world-leading campaign last week, practice teams are working rapidly to redesign their sites and put in place safe processes to meet the tough logistical challenges of offering the vaccination.
The NHS will contact people in the priority groups when it is their turn to receive the vaccine.
Dr Nikki Kanani, practising GP and NHS Director of Primary Care, said:
“GPs, nurses, pharmacists and other primary care staff are eager to play their part in protecting people against coronavirus.
“This is the greatest vaccination programme ever undertaken by the NHS and, to help vaccinate people safely we will be working with local communities to deliver it in convenient and familiar settings.
“As a GP I am proud to be part of this huge national effort to protect our patients against the virus and I would urge the public to come forward when they are called up for the vaccine.”
The community sites build on the work of the scores of hospital hubs which have already started vaccinating, with 90-year old Margaret Keenan receiving her first dose to become a global trailblazer in Coventry last Tuesday.
The latest phase of the vaccine roll-out is being co-ordinated by GP-led primary care networks with more practices and community pharmacies in other parts of England joining on a phased basis during December and in the coming months.
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:
“GPs and our teams are about to embark on an enormous challenge, delivering the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the community whilst also delivering the expanded flu vaccine programme and the usual care and services our patients rely on us for.
“There are also logistical challenges but general practice has an excellent track record of delivering mass vaccination programmes, and we want to use this experience to help protect people from Covid-19 and start getting life back to normal again. We won’t be vaccinating everyone all at once – it will be a relatively small number at first – but as long as there is supply, GPs and our teams at selected sites will start vaccinating people this week, starting with our most vulnerable patients.
“Patients will be contacted and invited for vaccination – we would urge them not to contact their practice enquiring about vaccination, we will contact them.”