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GPs gearing up for potential pre-Christmas vaccine rollout, says NHS chief

David Cheskin/PA Wire

By Ella Pickover, PA Health Correspondent

GPs are gearing up to start delivering any potential Covid-19 vaccines, the head of the NHS in England has said.

Sir Simon Stevens said family doctors will be ready to start by Christmas “if the vaccine becomes available”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There are over 200 vaccines in development and we believe that we should hopefully get one or more of those available from the first part of next year.

“In anticipation of that we’re also gearing the NHS up to be ready to make a start on administering Covid vaccines before Christmas, if they become available.

“We reached an agreement with GPs to ensure they will be doing that, and we’ll be writing to GP practices this week to get them geared up to start by Christmas if the vaccine becomes available.”

GP magazine Pulse reported on Tuesday that family doctors are going to be told to be prepared to start vaccinating over-85s and frontline workers from early December.

Work has been going on behind the scenes to prepare for any potential Covid vaccine and how it could be rolled out.

There are two frontrunners in the Covid-19 vaccine race – one from German biotech firm BioNtech and US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, and another being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

Both vaccines are currently in phase three of clinical trials.

Before any vaccine comes to the market, regulators have to confirm they are safe and effective.

It has been suggested that regulators could be getting clinical data within weeks.

The committee which advises the Government on vaccines has already set out the priority groups which should be vaccinated first.

According to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, older adults resident in a care home and care home workers should be the first to be given any approved vaccine.

All those aged 80 and over and health and social care workers are next on the priority list.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said on Tuesday: “While there are no certainties in the development, production, and timing of new vaccines, there is a possibility a Covid-19 vaccine could be available in the UK in the first part of 2021.

“It will only be rolled out once proven to be safe and effective through robust clinical trials and approved by medicines regulator the MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency).

“Once approved, the NHS stands ready to begin the vaccination programme to those most at risk, before being rolled out more widely.”

A spokesperson for the NHS added: “The NHS has well-established plans for delivering vaccinations across the country, including the annual flu jab and children’s immunisations, and work is under way to build on these tried and tested approaches so that when a vaccine is ready, staff can deliver it safely.”