NHS staff will no longer be among the first in the UK to be vaccinated against Covid-19 after a change of approach by the government, according to reports.
Efforts will be focused on immunising care home residents and staff as well as those over 80 who may already have a scheduled hospital appointment.
Reports last week suggested frontline health service workers had been pencilled in to receive the Pfizer vaccine first after experts expressed concerns over logistical issues delivering doses to those who cannot leave their homes.
However, amid a warning from Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, that the doses “could be the only batch we receive for some time,” the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has reportedly changed tack.
Potential supply problems mean care homes once again been pushed to the top of the waiting list, according to the Telegraph.
The UK is set to receive an initial 800,000 doses of the vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the first of which arrived in the country on Thursday evening.
They have since been placed into storage at a secure, undisclosed location, before they are distributed to hospital hubs across the country.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association, called on the government to ensure health workers were immunised as a priority.
He said: “It’s hugely important that frontline healthcare and social care workers – at the forefront of fighting this terrible virus – are given every opportunity to get the vaccine.
“In the first phase of the pandemic, significant numbers of healthcare workers became seriously ill and many losing their lives to the virus.”
The move to focus on immunisation in care homes came as the Guardian reported some NHS staff had already booked appointments to receive the jab before priorities changed.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab, enough to vaccinate 20 million people.
The nationwide coronavirus death toll meanwhile passed the 60,000 mark on Thursday, after a further 414 fatalities were announced.