LONDON — Elderly care home residents and their carers will be the first people in the U.K. to receive the newly approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the government said Wednesday.
Wei Shen Lim, chair of the U.K.’s joint committee on vaccination and immunization, said that the vaccine rollout would prioritize those most likely to die from COVID-19 as well as protecting health and social care services.
The first phase of the U.K.’s vaccination program will work through nine groups, beginning with residents in care homes for older adults and their carers. Next, all those over 80 years of age and other front-line health and care workers will be offered the jab.
Over-75s are in the third tier of prioritization, followed by the over-70s and extremely clinical vulnerable younger adults.
The fifth tier will extend to over 65s, before a sixth tier sees all those aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions that put them at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 offered the vaccine. The final three tiers work down through the age-groups until all those aged 50 and over have been offered the vaccine. Lim said that the details of the second phase of the rollout would be decided later and would be informed by lessons from the first phase.
It will be up to local NHS and council authorities to manage the implementation of the program, which is set to begin next week. Vaccinations will take place in hospitals, at mass vaccination centers and in the community, supported by family doctors and pharmacists. Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, Lim said that “operational constraints” might mean that “some flexibility” would be required in implementing the prioritization list.
Although the vaccine needs to be stored at -70C, it can be kept for five days at 2C to 8C, which would make transportation to vaccination sites easier, said Munir Pirmohamed, chair of Commission on Human Medicine’s expert working group which, alongside the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) assessed the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC Wednesday that the U.K. would receive 800,000 doses in its first wave of the program, with the potential for more than that number to be delivered by the end of this year. Those who receive the vaccine must have two doses, 21 days apart.