The health secretary has promised that all frontline health and care workers will be vaccinated by 15 February – and hopefully ‘sooner’.
It comes as NHS England has set out an ‘immediate requirement’ for hospital hubs to vaccinate healthcare staff, including pharmacists.
This week, the Government announced a target for the JCVI’s first four priority groups – with frontline health and social care workers in the second spot – to be immunised against Covid by 15 February.
Speaking at a parliamentary committee evidence session held last week (8 January), Matt Hancock said he will ‘absolutely ensure’ that all NHS staff are offered a vaccine ‘in the coming weeks’ and ‘certainly by 15 February’.
He added: ‘I hope we can get through all of [JCVI] category two – which includes all health and social care staff – sooner than 15 February, but that’s the target that we’re committed to hit.’
An NHS England letter sent last week (7 January) also outlined an ‘immediate requirement’ for hospital hubs to vaccinate frontline health and social care workers, following risk assessments ‘as much as possible’.
The letter said: ‘It is now time for us to vaccinate health and care workers, in line with the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) prioritisation.
‘This is critical to ensure we protect health and care workers, patients and the public at a time when Covid-19 pressures across health and care are intensifying.’
It added that all NHS trusts will be established as hubs by mid-January and will be the ‘default provider’ of Covid vaccinations for health and social care staff, including GPs and other primary care staff.
However, local systems ‘may wish to develop alternative local arrangements’, including with GP-run vaccination centres, the letter said.
NHS England added that while staff at ‘high risk’ of infection, developing ‘serious disease’ or transmitting infection to other staff or vulnerable people should be prioritised, hubs should ensure ‘maximum uptake of vaccination and timely, equitable access across staff groups’.
Staff vaccinations should be completed ‘as quickly as possible’ and trusts are expected to make ‘significant progress’ by the first week of February, it said.
The letter added that staff vaccinations should be provided seven days a week at times that are ‘accessible to all frontline health and social care workers’ and may follow a phased approach so organisations can ‘maintain service delivery’.
Claire Anderson, RPS England chair, welcomed the plans.
She said: ‘It’s great to have confirmation that pharmacists and their teams in all care settings, including locums, bank staff and volunteers, will receive the vaccine alongside the other health professions.
‘Pharmacists are working hard on the frontline of the pandemic and it’s vital they get the protection they deserve. This guidance offers some welcome clarity on how they will be vaccinated against Covid-19.’
This comes as selected community pharmacies across the country will start delivering the Covid-19 vaccine this week.
A version of this story first appeared on our sister publication, Pulse.