Martin Ford 04 December 2020

Care home workers take vaccine priority over NHS

Care home workers have been given top priority in the COVID-19 vaccination programme following a revision of Government guidance.

Carers and hospital patients over 80 have been given precedence over NHS workers after a change of heart from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

The NHS has begun to identify care home workers and over 80s to receive the first jabs from Tuesday.

Work is also underway to develop a system for storing and distributing the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at -75C to remain effective.

The NHS estimates it will take about 10 to 15 days to setup a system that meets the requirements of the Medicines And Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which would mean the batches of 975 vaccines could be divided and rolled out to care home residents.

Chair of the British Medical Association council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, 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.’

Councils in Greater Manchester have paused a programme of rapid testing for care home visitors due to concerns about its effectiveness.

Lateral flow tests, which produce results in less than half an hour, have been used to screen visitors to care homes.

Under laboratory conditions, the rapid tests were found to be 95% effective at detecting high levels of COVID-19, when people are most likely to pass on the infection.

However, the results of the Liverpool mass testing pilot found that they only picked up seven in ten high cases that were detected by PCR swab tests.

Rochdale BC chief executive Steve Rumbelow said it was an ‘unacceptably high risk of missing the virus’.

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