The COVID-19 vaccine will "definitely" see distribution in U.K. nursing homes "within two weeks," said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to BBC Radio Cumbria during an interview, in an initial BBC report.
Coronavirus vaccinations are expected to start at 50 hospital hubs on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
UK COVID-19 vaccinations begin in nursing homes 'within two weeks'
The way vaccine doses are packed calls for regulators to approve how they're later broken down into smaller consignments, to ensure the vaccine remains at cold and safe temperatures.
When asked about the schedule for moving vaccine doses into care homes (nursing homes in the U.K.), Chief Executive June Raine of the MHRA said it could be "variable," but "definitely within two weeks."
UPDATE Dec. 4, 3:50 PM EST: Assemblers have 12 hours to pack, label, ship vaccines to nursing homes
The MHRA stipulates for vaccine doses to undergo repacking for shipping to nursing homes in refrigerated cold rooms, and kept at a temperature between 2°C and 8°C (35.6°F and 46.4°F) — and transferred into containers capable of maintaining this temperature range.
Once the vials of vaccine are thawed, assemblers have 12 hours to pack, label, and move them to nursing homes — a procedure never attempted before at this scale.
UPDATE Dec. 4, 4:00 PM EST: UK's R number drops, 'over-80s' people next in line for vaccination
The U.K. government also said the R number — which is the average number of people each infected person subsequently infects with the virus — has dropped to 0.8 and 1 in the U.K., which was 0.9 and 1 last week.
It also said an additional 504 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19, which brings the U.K's total deaths form the illness up to 60,617.
The initial consignment of Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine made it to the U.K. on Thursday, and the government has placed orders for 40 million doses in total — a quantity high enough to vaccinate 20 million people.
The elderly and U.K. nursing home staff have priority for vaccination — per the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization's (JCVI's) recommendation. After this initial round of vaccination, the next popolation in line are those more than 80 years old, in addition to front-line health and social care (hospice) staff.
UPDATE Dec. 4, 4:15 PM EST: Hospitals working out logistics to provide COVID-19 vaccines to people older than 80 years
Deputy Chair of the JCVI Anthony Harnden told The World at One on BBC Radi 4 he suspected elderly people in nursing homes "might not end up being the first priority group for operational reasons," and added the committee would "closely monitor this."
He also emphasized how the JCVI still aims to priotize nursing home residents.
Chief Executive Chris Hopson of NHS Providers said the COVID-19 vaccines are likely already located at the hospital hubs, and stand ready for vaccinations to go forward on Tuesday, Dec. 8. He also noted that hospitals are developing the logistics for distributing the vaccine, so those aged older than 80 may also receive the vaccine.
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