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Vaccine roll out: no date for CEV list, u-turn on care home residents being first to receive jab

03 December 2020

The government has announced that 800,000 Coronavirus vaccines will be ready to use from next week.

It was expected that it would be working to a prioritisation list, with the first recipients being care home residents and their carers.

Announcing the approval of the vaccines for public use yesterday morning (Wednesday 2 December), Dr June Raine, Chief Executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: "no corners had been cut" and that the vaccine "meets the strictest requirements of safety, of effectiveness, and of quality".

The vaccine, made by Pfizer/BioNTech, is the first in the world to be approved for rollout.

There are approximately 480,000 care home residents in the UK. It looked likely that the first batch of vaccines would only have enough units to cover care home residents and carers.

Thereafter, the prioritisation recommended by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) would run thus:

People aged 85 and over

People aged 75 and over

People who are classed as being clinically extremely vulnerable, and people aged 70 and over

People who are aged 65 and over

People who are adults aged under 65 with health conditions which increase their risk

People aged 60 and over

People aged 55 and over

People aged 50 and over

Everyone else

However, by Wednesday evening, the Government announced that it will be unable to vaccinate care home residents unless they are scheduled for hospital visits.

In a turnaround from the morning’s announcements, and from the JCVI prioritisation list which had put care home residents at the top of the list along with care home workers, the Government has now said that the fragility of the vaccine, which needs specialist storage conditions, will be delivered first to care home workers and NHS staff.

Patients aged over 80 who are in hospital may still receive the vaccine.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “The government has known for weeks that the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at extremely cold temperatures, and despite this, it gave assurances that the JCVI prioritisation list would be adhered to with care home residents being the first to be vaccinated.

“Whether by accident or design, the government isn’t just playing around with storage temperatures of vaccines, it’s playing around with smoke and mirrors as far as the expectations of those who are most at risk from the virus are concerned.

“Yesterday evening’s announcement is completely different from the expectation set at the morning’s press conference. If the vaccine cannot be taken to care homes, why is the government not looking to take at least some care home residents to the vaccine?”

Disability Rights UK has been campaigning for shielders – clinically extremely vulnerable people – to be moved up the prioritisation list. This group was moved from sixth on the list to fourth over the weekend. We are fearful that a question mark now hangs over this position given the u-turn on care home residents.

The group includes people with certain cancers, chronic kidney disease and Down’s Syndrome.

We asked the Cabinet Office, where the Disability Unit is based, and the Department for Health and Social Care, to get back to us as to when the vaccine will be available for shielders. We have been told that timescales cannot yet be provided.

Last week, Baroness Jane Campbell asked a question in the House of Lords about vaccines. She has yet to receive any evidence about the prioritisation of certain groups above others.

Read the government’s priority groups vaccine guidance here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-2-december-2020