Elderly residents and care home workers are set to prioritised when the government launches its COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Older adults resident in a care home and care home workers top a priority list for vaccines currently recommended by independent scientific advisers.
Speaking following yesterday’s announcement of a successful trial of a Pfizer vaccine, the government said the NHS stood ready to begin a vaccination programme for those most at risk as recommended by the independent JCVI.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said the vaccine could be available by Christmas with a mass roll-out targeted “in the first part of next year”.
Nadra Ahmed OBE, executive chairman of the National Care Association, told CHP: “The need for a vaccine in the medium and long term is crucial in the global effort to contain if not defeat this virus, so we welcome the breakthroughs.
“However, the rapid testing capability is of immediate interest to our sector. We must be prioritised for these as it will have a material impact on our ability to deliver the full package of care which includes long awaited visits with loved ones. It is time our residents and staff are prioritised and the empty promises are fulfilled.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, added: “The news about the potential COVID-19 vaccine is very welcome. We are appealing to the DHSC to work with the care home sector in order to outline the process so that we can iron out any logistical issues in the delivery. There are a number of unknowns for example matters around consent, delivery and whether all care home residents, regardless of age, are to be prioritised.”
Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, told CHP: “NCF are very pleased to hear news of a vaccine for COVID-19. The virus has hit those receiving care very hard, and for many has left them isolated and disconnected from family and friends. The proposed prioritisation of the vaccine to those living and working within care homes represents a very important step in acknowledging how critical it is not only to protect this cohort, but also to urgently enable homes to open back up and take their rightful place once more as vibrant hubs within communities.
“In addition, the full prioritisation list represents a major step forward in terms of recognising the urgency with which a vaccine must reach all those who receive or deliver care in all different settings. Making this vision a reality is key. The government must work urgently with scientists to clarify the unhelpful ‘what ifs’ that this statement leaves hanging, and then with the sector to enable swift and effective roll out.”
Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, said: “The news about a vaccine is encouraging, especially for people who access care services. It is important though to be guided by the science on any vaccine and nothing must be done in haste; we have to find the most effective vaccine programme to give us the best chance of bringing the virus under control. In the meantime it is still vital that testing and PPE supplies are available in all care settings because infection control will still be an important issue for this virus for some time to come.”