Care home residents will not be included in the first round of COVID vaccinations issued next week, the government has admitted.
The need to store the Pfizer vaccine at low temperatures means it will initially only be delivered to hospitals, the government revealed.
Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “As soon as it is legally and technically possible to get the vaccine into care homes, we will do so. But this is a complex product with a very fragile culture. This is not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back in multiple times.”
Care home staff will be among the first to be vaccinated, however, and will be asked to travel to one of 50 hospitals where the vaccines are being held.
The news came after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said residents in a care home for older adults and their carers should be first on the priority list.
Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, said: “The vaccine has been billed as life-saving, and it must be afforded to those who need it most, and not fall at the first hurdle because of the absence of a thought-through logistical plan.
“Being the first western country to approve a vaccine for COVID is remarkable. Now let’s put our energy and ingenuity into ensuring the most vulnerable can be the first to receive it.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “As the JCVI have made clear, there will need to be flexibility in terms of operational challenges around delivery of the vaccine to those in care homes. In line with the advice, every effort will be made to supply vaccine and offer vaccinations to care home residents and we will deliver the vaccine according to clinical prioritisation and operational necessity.”