Covid-19: First Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arrive at hospitals for use this week

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Neil Connery

The first set of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines have arrived at hospitals in the UK for use as early as Tuesday.

Croydon University Hospital is among the first to receive the much-anticipated vaccine, which must be stored at extremely low temperatures or around -70C (-94F).

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the government’s deputy chief medical officer, said earlier last week the vaccine was a “complex product with a very fragile cold chain". “It’s not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back in multiple times,” he told a Downing Street press conference. “It’s really tricky to handle.”

Professor Susan Michie, who advises the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), warns the public must not get complacent

And it's those difficulties with transportation and storage that mean elderly care home residents - who had been first in line to receive the jab - will no longer be the first recipients due to difficulties transporting the doses. The first batches arrived in the UK last week and are being stored at sites across the four nations, ready be given to NHS staff, care home staff and the over-80s in the coming weeks.

It is thought elderly people attending hospital as an outpatient, those being discharged home after a hospital stay will be amongst the first to get the jab.

Others over the age of 80 will be invited to attend the hospital "hubs" to receive a jab, and care home providers will be able to book their staff into vaccination clinics.

It is hoped care home residents will be vaccinated soon.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at around -70C and moved carefully. Credit: PHE

On Friday, Business Secretary Alok Sharma insisted to ITV News that deployment in care homes across the country would take place in December.

While NHS England National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis said: “NHS staff around the country… have been working tirelessly to make sure we are prepared to commence vaccination on Tuesday.

“This feels like the beginning of the end, but of course it’s a marathon not a sprint and it will take many months for us to vaccinate everybody who needs vaccination.”