Vaccination teams are braced to go into care homes to give the most vulnerable the Covid jab by the end of the week.
GPs are also due to start administering the
It means those at greatest risk will finally get the protection they need after regulators approved the plans.
Ivy Smith, 97, was among those who received the new coronavirus vaccine at William Harvey Hospital in Kent
However, there are concerns that some designated sites will struggle to meet the requirement to deliver 975 doses in three and a half days, given the requirement for staff to observe patients for 15 minutes afterwards.
This comes after two hospital workers had an allergic reaction to the jab when deployment began in hospitals last week, which is thought to have prompted some surgeries to not get involved.
GP leaders warned it would be ‘an enormous challenge’ for primary care to deliver coronavirus vaccines and the biggest ever flu jab programme without affecting routine care.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘There are also logistical challenges, but general practice has an excellent track record of delivering mass vaccination programmes.
GPs are also due to start administering the Pfizer vaccine from today at 280 local centres. Pictured: Paula McMahon prepares to administer the Pfizer vaccine at the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow
We want to use this experience to help protect people from Covid-19 and start getting life back to normal again.
‘We won’t be vaccinating everyone all at once – it will be a relatively small number at first – but as long as there is supply, GPs and our teams at selected sites will start vaccinating people this week, starting with our most vulnerable patients.’
Oxford University jab could be available within weeks
The chances of the Oxford University jab being rolled out by the end of the year is ‘pretty high’, according to one of its creators.
Sarah Gilbert, leader of the team which developed the vaccine, said she was hopeful the vaccine would be available for use within weeks.
Trials to combine the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine with Russia’s Sputnik vaccines will also get underway imminently, she said.
This will test whether combining shots of the different vaccines could offer better protection than two doses of the same one.
Family doctors will be joined by nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, other NHS workers and volunteers to deliver the vaccines, offered to patients aged 80 and over and care home workers from today.
Health Service guidance suggests designated sites should also have mobile teams to go into care homes and give the vaccine to elderly residents.
This is likely to involve at least four visits to each home in order to give residents the two doses necessary for the jab to be effective.
To minimise the risk of transmission, those who enter care homes should consider getting themselves tested first.
The guidance states: ‘As a principle, providers should seek to minimise the number of unnecessary visits to care homes to mitigate potential risk to residents. A minimum four-visit schedule is recommended.’
However, it comes as some care homes pledged to defy a Government promise that families would be able to hug elderly relatives in care homes at Christmas.
Bosses cited fears that new rapid Covid tests allowing visitors to be tested quickly were not accurate enough.
The historic vaccination programme got under way last Tuesday when 90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first of thousands to receive the jab at a hospital hub in Coventry.
The latest phase of the rollout is being co-ordinated by GP-led primary care networks, with more practices and pharmacies expected to join in.
Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP and NHS director of primary care, said: ‘GPs, nurses, pharmacists and other primary-care staff are eager to play their part in protecting people.
‘This is the greatest vaccination programme ever undertaken by the NHS. We will be working with local communities to deliver it in convenient and familiar settings.
‘I am proud to be part of this huge national effort to protect patients against the virus.’
Cheer up! Pupils write letters to pep up elderly
It was smiles all round when one care home received 48 hand-written letters from a local school.
Children aged eight and nine cheered up 39 residents at Hillcrest home in Norwich with jokes, pictures and festive messages.
Oliver Price, eight, said: ‘It was nice to write to them because I thought they might be feeling lonely. I just wanted to cheer them up.’ Alfie Black, nine, wrote: ‘Why was the broom late for work? He overswept.’
Delighted Hillcrest resident Audrey Harris, 88, said: ‘The letters were beautiful and it was great to see the home filled with so many festive pictures!’
Sybil Bissett, 93, a resident at Hillcrest care home in Norwich, Norfolk, reads a letter from a pupil
Pupils at Charles Darwin Primary School write letters to send to residents at the care home
Charles Darwin Primary School’s principal Jo Brown added: ‘The children have absolutely loved it and the care home residents were thrilled.’
While the school plans to stay in touch with Hillcrest, it may be that goodwill in the rest of the country is not here to stay.
Two thirds of us believe that the kindness shown this year will last less than six months after the pandemic ends, according to a poll commissioned by John Lewis and Waitrose.