Further authorisation is needed from regulators before residents and staff can receive the coronavirus vaccine in care homes, Boris Johnson has revealed.
People in care homes are top of the official list of priorities for receiving the vaccine, alongside the over-80s, because they are considered by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to be most at risk of death or serious illness from coronavirus.
But the prime minister revealed that the Pfizer/BioNTec inoculation cleared for use by regulators today cannot yet be sent to care homes, because the cases it comes in are too large. Further authorisation is needed from the MHRA before the 975-dose boxes can be split up into batches suitable for distribution to homes.
Mr Johnson set no timetable for care homes to receive supplies, though NHS England chief Sir Simon Stevens told a Downing Street press conference that he hoped it would be this month.
Sir Simon said that the first jabs would be administered in around 50 hospitals as early as next week, before later being extended to groups of GP practices coming together in 1,000 local vaccination centres across England.
Distribution of the vaccine presents “immense logistical challenges” because it must be kept at -70 degrees celsius before reaching the location where it will be administered, said Mr Johnson.
Although the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) has cleared the vaccine as safe for use, it has not yet approved a method for breaking up the large boxes arriving from Belgium, where it is produced.