• GP surgeries told to give all care home residents their first vaccine dose by 24 January
  • Local vaccination services offered extra financial incentives for jabs
  • Ministry of Defence on hand to support efforts

GP surgeries have been told to make sure all care home residents have received their first covid-19 vaccine dose by the end of next week, with the military on standby to support the effort.

A letter from NHS England primary care leaders Nikita Kanani and Ed Waller to primary care vaccination teams said GPs should ensure the first vaccine dose is given to all care home residents in their area “by the end of this week” — or, where this is not possible, by 24 January “at the latest”. 

The Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine’s approval on 4 January has enabled a wider rollout in care homes, as it is easier to transport than the Pfizer jab. GPs have been told the Oxford vaccine should first be used in care homes and only offered to wider cohorts if there are leftover doses.

Local primary care network vaccination services will also receive an additional £30 financial incentive for each vaccination done before 17 January, while an additional £20 is available for care home vaccines carried out between 18 and 24 January. 

The latest incentive is an increase from the £10 originally planned for each vaccine dose in care homes, on top of the £12.58 service fee. The £10 incentive will continue to apply to any doses delivered in care homes after 24 January, as well as to second doses. 

The letter added that, in areas with “significant gaps” in care home vaccine provision, military clinical teams will be able to support vaccination delivery.

The letter said the Ministry of Defence has established a “Vaccine Quick Reaction Force”, providing three teams to each of the seven NHS regions. The teams will be stepped up locally when there is a surge in vaccine demand across any of the NHS vaccination centres. Each team is made up of a clinical lead, two registered healthcare workers and three vaccinators, who are either combat medical technicians or healthcare assistants.

The letters added that vaccinations must still be carried out in care homes where there are covid outbreaks.

It continued: “Whilst vaccination against covid may be temporarily deferred in some individuals eg. acutely unwell or still within four weeks of onset of covid symptoms, all other staff and care home residents in a care home where an outbreak is occurring must receive prompt covid vaccination. There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of covid-19 infection, or with detectable covid-19 antibody.”

Under guidance set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, residents in a care home for older adults and their carers are the top priority group for the covid vaccine. NHS estimates previously seen by HSJ state there are around 1.03 million people in this cohort

As of 12 January, almost 2.7 million doses of the vaccine have been given, including almost 2.3 million first doses