Every adult in England should be offered Covid vaccine by April under draft NHS plans

Every adult in England should be offered the coronavirus vaccine by April, according to NHS draft plans.

The roll-out plans will see those aged 18 to 50 start being offered jabs in January after older people and care workers are vaccinated. 

The provisional timetable – which depends on the authorisation and arrival of millions of vaccines – sees care home residents and staff, NHS workers, and those in their 70s and 80s start receiving jabs before Christmas, with a far wider roll-out planned in the New Year.

While those aged between 50 and 70, along with younger people with health conditions, should be offered jabs during January, people aged between 18 and 50 should start to be offered them by the end of the month.

The draft plans, seen by Health Service Journal (HSJ), say the "bulk" of vaccinations of the last group are likely to occur in March – meaning almost the whole population should have been offered a vaccine by Easter. 

The dates pencilled in for starting to vaccinate each group

The plan would see 88.5 million vaccination doses delivered across England, with two doses per person over the age of 18, by the end of April. 

But it depends on leading vaccinations receiving approval soon, and on the delivery of millions of the jabs early next year. Britain has ordered 40 million doses of a jab by Pfizer and BioNTech, with 10 million by the end of this year. 

On Friday, the firms asked regulators in the United States to begin assessment of its vaccine, found to have 95 percent effectiveness. They are expected to file for authorisation with British regulators within days, meaning a quick assessment could see vaccinations start to be offered by the end of this month. 

However, the vaccines have to be stored in extremely cold temperatures, which will mean they are likely to be administered from 40 mass vaccination sites being set up by the NHS.

Vaccine distribution

The Government has also ordered 100 million doses of a vaccine by AstraZeneca, which has shown extremely promising results in Phase Two trials, especially among the elderly. Phase Three trials have yet to be completed, but are expected to report shortly.

An order of five million doses of a third vaccine, by Moderna, was made earlier this week but will not be received until the spring. 

Health officials stressed that the provisional timetable depends on both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines being approved soon.

The document, dated November 13, was shared among some senior NHS regional leaders on Thursday, HSJ reports. 

The proposed dates show when each group would start receiving the vaccine. Cohorts would run concurrently, meaning one group would not need to be completed before another starts.

Under the plans, all "priority" cohorts, such as older people and younger people with underlying health conditions, should be completed by the end of February. The leaked documents say there is "uncertainty" about whether up to six million unpaid carers may be given early priority at the same time as those they care for.

Who gets the vaccine first?

Online booking systems are planned, allowing people to choose from local and regional centres, and the plan says: "Eligible individuals will be able to book a vaccine at any available vaccination site of their choice irrespective of distance from their home address."

Around 34 million doses will be administered from 1,000 mass vaccination sites run by GPs. Around 28 million will be delivered from  "large-scale mass vaccination centres", of which there are expected to be around 40-50 across England in conference centres, stadia and similar venues. Both types of site will be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Nearly two million doses will be administered to NHS staff, and"roving teams" would deliver 3.5 million jabs to care homes and people who are housebound.

With most doses due to be administered between early January and mid-March, at a rate of four to five million every week, a small delay may not make a huge impact on the overall schedule.

The plan relies on a range of assumptions, including the availability of more than seven million doses of vaccines in December. It assumes a 75 per cent take-up of jabs outside residential settings such as care homes and prisons, where 100 per cent is expected.

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab require two doses, 28 days apart.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: "The NHS has vast experience delivering widespread vaccination programmes and an enormous amount of planning has taken place to ensure our health service stands ready to roll out a Covid-19 vaccine."

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