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UK to ‘move mountains’ to get Covid vaccine in care homes within two weeks

PMQ's: Boris Johnson pays tribute to care homes' virus response

Care minister Helen Whately has written to care homes and local authorities, describing the task as “one the greatest challenges we have ever faced”.

The priority will be vaccinating care home workers and the over-80s in a bid to stop the virus claiming more lives.

Local authorities have been asked to help take residents to up to 50 hospital hubs which will be established across England.

Residents will have to give their consent before receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination and a standardised form will be sent out to care homes.

It is hoped that in the coming weeks the vaccine will be available at more hubs and other locations.

Ms Whately said: “The brilliant news [of] the first vaccine authorisation is a bright light at the end of the long tunnel – especially for people living and working in care homes. This will save lives and bring the dark days of this pandemic to an end sooner than many dared hope.

“[The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations] has made clear care home residents and carers are top priority, and we will move whatever mountains are necessary for them to get vaccinated. They are right at the front of the queue.

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“The NHS is working flat out to make this happen. Today I have written to care homes and local authorities on how they can get ready.

“We’re determined to hit the ground running in getting this vaccine to the people who need it most. We’re working with care providers to make sure carers get vaccinated right from the start of this huge vaccination programme.

“And we’re looking at ways of getting the vaccine into care homes as soon as possible. Vaccinating the country is a Herculean task.

“As we embark on this, we must all still play our part to keep the virus under control, and keep those most at risk safe.”

It is reported the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is confident the vaccine can go into care homes in the next two weeks. The care minister did not provide a timescale for this.

Ms Whately stated in her letter: “We are working with the NHS on how we may be able to vaccinate care home residents with the Pfizer-bioNTech vaccine at their care home but given the practical challenges we cannot set out the details for this yet.”

There was widespread alarm at the death toll in care homes in the initial stages of the pandemic. An analysis by the Office for National Statistics found that of the 93,475 deaths of care home residents in England and Wales between December 28 and June 12, 19,394 involved Covid-19.

In a final message of encouragement to those on the frontline, Ms Whately said: “We recognise the scale and the complexity to deliver this vaccination programme is one the greatest challenges we have ever faced. I want to thank you in advance for the crucial part you will play in the vaccination programme, while at the same time continuing all the work you do caring for people and supporting those who care for them.”

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