Care home vaccine rollout ‘needs to be stepped up’ – PM

Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent
·3-min read

The Prime Minister has said the rollout of coronavirus vaccines to care homes “needs to be stepped up”, as he revealed one in 10 residents and 14% of staff have received a jab.

Boris Johnson told the House of Commons he wants the process to be accelerated across England.

Elderly residents and their carers are at the top of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s priority list for receiving Covid-19 vaccines.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said it is aiming for all care home residents to have been offered vaccines by the end of January.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was first rolled out to care homes in mid-December, at first to seven homes as part of a pilot and then to homes with more than 50 registered beds.

It is expected that the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on December 30 will speed up the process as it does not pose the same logistical challenges.

For example, it does not need to be stored in such cold conditions and can be split up into smaller packs.

The first doses of the Oxford vaccine are expected to reach care homes this week.

Conservative former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers raised concerns that only 13 care homes in the north London borough of Barnet have received vaccinations.

She asked: “Will the Prime Minister intervene to make sure the frail, elderly and their carers in Barnet get the vaccinations they need as soon as possible?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I do want to see an accelerated rollout of vaccinations in care homes.

“So far, I believe that 10% of care home residents and 14% of care home staff have received the vaccine – but that clearly needs to be stepped up.”

The Independent Care Group, which represents more than 200 providers in North Yorkshire and York, said it is heartening that care homes are a high priority and have been promised the vaccine by the end of the month.

Chairman Mike Padgham said: “But we have had similar promises before and we pray the Government can deliver this time. We need a dose of realism.

“If the Government can deliver the vaccine to homes by the end of January, we want to see them do it swiftly.

“If they can’t then they must be honest and tell us a realistic timescale. There is no time to lose.”

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of the membership organisation Care England, said: “It is really positive news that the vaccine is being rolled out to care home residents and staff and we hope that it will continue apace.

“It would be useful to have concrete confirmation that the supply routes will deliver the numbers needed, alongside frequent communication from central Government to the care sector.

“One way to help the rollout might be to allow care home nurses to administer the vaccine, but we understand that there are issues around indemnity which don’t seem to apply for NHS staff.”