DOCTORS are on standby to give a coronavirus vaccine before Christmas, the boss of NHS England has confirmed.
Sir Simon Stevens said the health service will be “geared up” to administer any potential Covid-19 jab if it becomes available.
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It comes after it was reported that GPs have been asked to prepare to vaccinate the over 85s and NHS staff from next month.
Sir Stevens told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There are over 200 vaccines in development and we believe that we should hopefully get one or more of those available from the first part of next year.
“In anticipation of that we’re also gearing the NHS up to be ready to make a start on administering Covid vaccines before Christmas, if they become available.
“We reached an agreement with GPs to ensure they will be doing that, and we’ll be writing to GP practices this week to get them geared up to start by Christmas if the vaccine becomes available.”
PREPARED FOR RELEASE
At present there is no vaccine for the virus and scientists are racing to find a suitable jab that can be rolled out in order to protect people from the killer bug.
According to Pulse Today, a magazine for GPs, two vaccines are currently being prepared for release.
One of the jabs is said to require two doses, while another will need to be stored at minus 70 degrees.
But it’s not just NHS staff and the elderly that will get the jab, it has also been reported that teams will also be delivering the jab to care homes.
The magazine last month reported that the NHS was set to start the rollout from December.
Sources told the publication that there would be a 50/50 chance of the jab being ready by next month.
It is not yet clear if the vaccines will be rolled out to certain trusts, or if this will be on a local authority basis.
GPs will receive a “directed enhanced service” (DES) from next week which sets out how they deliver a service above their usual contract.
Pulse has been told the DES on a potential Covid vaccine rollout is “imminent, potentially by next week”.
Last week it was reported that the Oxford University jab produces a “strong immune response” in elderly participants.
Experts said information from an earlier stage of the jab trial suggests “similar” immune response among younger and older adults.
It raises fresh hopes that the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine candidate will protect all sectors of society.
Sir Stevens also warned that the NHS had seen a “very substantial” increase in Covid-19 admissions in October.
There are now “22 hospitals’ worth” of coronavirus patients in hospitals in England, he said.
These absolutely are desperately sick patients in hospitals.
“In many parts of the country we’re now seeing more coronavirus inpatients in hospital and in intensive care than we saw in the first peak in April.
The head of NHS England said the health service is “adding as much capacity as it can” in anticipation of the usual winter pressures and Covid patients.
But he said people need to do everything they can to keep the infection rates down to ensure that other services – routine operations and cancer care – can be preserved.
“We are obviously adding as much capacity as we can in anticipation of not only coronavirus but the extra winter pressures that always come along with this time of year,” he said.
“And the reason we want to try and minimise the number of coronavirus infections and patients is not only because of the excess death rate that implies, but because of the knock-on consequences it has for other services – routine operations, cancer care.
“And so if we want to preserve those other services so that the health service can continue to help the full range of patients, we need to do everything we can, together, to keep the infection rate down for coronavirus.”
JAB SAFETY REVIEW
A Covid vaccine has long been hailed as the key way out of lockdown and ending the pandemic, but it has to pass several steps first.
Data on the safety and immune responses among those taking part in the phase two vaccine trial has been submitted for peer review in a medical journal.
Health secretary Matt Hancock previously said that his “central expectation” is that the majority of the rollout of a vaccine could be under way in the first half of 2021.
There are currently two frontrunners in the Covid-19 vaccine race – candidates from German biotech firm BioNtech and US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the vaccine candidate being developed by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
Both vaccine candidates are currently in phase three clinical trials.
Before any vaccine comes to the market, regulators have to confirm they are safe and effective.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation previously stated that the first in line for the vaccine would be care home workers and older adults who reside at care home facilities.
Following this group – those over the age of 80 would be next, followed by health care workers.
It comes after it was today revealed that high risk Brits may no longer have to quarantine thanks to new 15-minute Covid tests.
In the absence of a vaccine, leading scientists claim rapid checks will soon be able to end quarantine for high-risk individuals.
Ministers are currently finalising plans to slash the time close Covid contacts will be asked to self-isolate indoors.
Healthy Brits will be able to seek a swab test as little as a week after a member of their household falls ill – and be allowed out if the results are negative.
Officials hope it will see the time contacts need to self-isolate fall by up to six days.