Coronavirus: NHS to be on standby for potential vaccine rollout in December

The NHS is being told to prepare for a possible vaccine rollout as early as December, Sky News understands.

GP magazine Pulse first reported that GPs are being put on standby to start vaccinating over-85s and frontline health workers from the beginning of next month.

Family doctors will receive a “directed enhanced service” (DES) from next week setting out how they deliver the service, the magazine said.

A coronavirus vaccine has not yet been approved and it will need to go through regulators to confirm it is safe and effective before it can be offered to the public.

But there are two vaccine candidates that are currently in late-stage clinical trials and could be sending clinical data to regulators within weeks.

The two frontrunners are potential vaccines from German firm BioNtech and US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, and the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

A committee advising the government on vaccines has already set out which groups should be prioritised for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Care home residents and workers should be the first to be given any approved vaccine, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said.

Afterwards, everyone aged 80 and over and health and social care workers should be next to receive the jab.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “While there are no certainties in the development, production, and timing of new vaccines, there is a possibility a COVID-19 vaccine could be available in the UK in the first part of 2021.

“It will only be rolled out once proven to be safe and effective through robust clinical trials and approved by medicines regulator the MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency).

“Once approved, the NHS stands ready to begin the vaccination programme to those most at risk, before being rolled out more widely.”

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There have also been warnings that the first set of coronavirus vaccines are “likely to imperfect” and “might not work for everyone”.

The chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, Kate Bingham, recently wrote in The Lancet: “We do not know that we will ever have a vaccine at all. It is important to guard against complacency and over-optimism.

“The first generation of vaccines is likely to be imperfect, and we should be prepared that they might not prevent infection but rather reduce symptoms, and, even then, might not work for everyone or for long.”

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