• NHS England has told trusts covid vaccinations can now be rolled out to frontline staff “immediately”
  • National commissioner tells primary care vaccine hubs to prioritise care home staff and residents 

Covid-19 vaccinations should now be “immediately” rolled out to frontline staff, NHS England has told trust leaders.

New instructions from the national body follow the approval today of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, which NHS England said will “substantially to accelerate vaccine delivery”. Until now, only limited quantities of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been available.

NHS staff are in the second priority category for covid vaccines, behind care home residents and alongside over 80s. But there have been complaints from clinicians around the country that they have been unable to get the jab, as well as uncertainty about how the vaccine deliveries should be divided between the priority groups.

A letter to local leaders from NHS England says that until now, healthcare workers who have been identified at highest risk of serious illness from covid-19 have been given the vaccine in unfilled appointment slots.

The letter, from chief executive Sir Simon Stevens and senior officials, now states: “Increased supply means that vaccination can also now immediately be expanded to frontline health and social care workers.”

Within the frontline workforce, the letter says priority should still be given to those “at high risk of acquiring infection, at high individual risk of developing serious disease, or at risk of transmitting infection to multiple vulnerable persons or other staff in a healthcare environment”.

It added: “Healthcare providers have been undertaking staff risk assessments throughout the pandemic to identify these individuals and it remains important that this is organised across the local health and social care system to ensure equitable access, ensuring all staff within their own organisations, and those of their partners, are able to access the vaccine as soon as possible.”

Vaccination sites led by primary care networks have been asked to prioritise care home residents and staff “wherever possible” and NHS England has offered GPs an additional £10 per dose on top of the initial fee offered for providing vaccinations to care homes.

Trusts were also told all second dose appointments of the vaccines, both of which require two doses, should now be booked in the twelfth week after the first dose. This means patients who were scheduled to have their second dose within a shorter period should have their appointment rescheduled. 

The letter adds: “As there is still some unavoidable uncertainty about the week-by-week supply phasing, we are grateful for your continuing understanding and flexibility as we have to make ‘real time’ operational vaccine allocations across our vaccination sites.”

Earlier this week NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens confirmed all vulnerable groups would be vaccinated by late spring.