GP surgeries in England and care homes in Scotland roll out Covid-19 vaccine amid fresh Christmas warnings

Video report by ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan

Covid-19 vaccinations at GP surgeries in England are to begin, while in Scotland residents in care homes are set to receive the jab for the first time.

The further rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech immunisation comes as people across the country have been warned a rise in cases after Christmas socialising could disrupt the roll out of the jabs.

GP practices in more than 100 locations will have the approved vaccine delivered to them on Monday, with some offering vaccinations within hours.

  • One of the first care home residents in Scotland to get the jab

NHS England and NHS Improvement said the majority of GPs will begin providing vaccination services to their local communities from Tuesday, with elderly people being the first in line for the jabs.

NHS staff including nurses and pharmacists will work alongside GPs to inoculate those aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers and residents.

ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan on the rollout

The vaccination centres will operate from doctors’ surgeries or community hubs in villages, towns and cities.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "GPs and our teams are about to embark on an enormous challenge, delivering the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the community whilst also delivering the expanded flu vaccine programme and the usual care and services our patients rely on us for."

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the only one currently approved for use in the UK but the chances of the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine also being rolled out by the end of this year are “pretty high”, according to lead researcher Sarah Gilbert, who is professor of vaccinology at the university.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is still reviewing trial data for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

Prof Gilbert said it is possible that life could be "more or less" back to normal by next summer – but said it depends on transmission rates in January which she said could be affected by people travelling and mixing with others over Christmas.

  • GP surgeries up and down England will be taking delivery of the Pfizer vaccine this week

Restrictions are due to be relaxed across the UK between December 23 and 27 to allow families to spend time together in "Christmas bubbles" but NHS bosses have warned Boris Johnson that any relaxation of restrictions in England’s tier system could trigger a third wave of cases at the busiest time of the year for hospitals.

Prof Gilbert said the US has seen a surge in infections and deaths after people celebrated Thanksgiving, adding that a similar rise in the UK could also affect the vaccination roll-out.

"It’s not possible to run vaccination clinics when staff are off sick, and there’s a very high transmission rate affecting people’s ability to come to be vaccinated," he said.

Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, warned that the virus "spreads like cigarette smoke" indoors and people could easily fall ill.

She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: "This is the worry about Christmas because once you enter somebody’s home, you’re probably going to get the virus if someone else there has it."

Professor Sridhar added: "The three things I’d say to people is first, we have a vaccine right around the corner – Pfizer is already being rolled out, AstraZeneca is on its way.

"So within weeks people are going to be vaccinated and safe, who otherwise would be at risk.

"Secondly, NHS staff are exhausted, they are begging people to be cautious, to not get infected, because they’re the ones in the end who have to be showing up in hospital on Christmas Day, on Boxing Day and New Year’s and actually having to take care of everyone that comes through.

"And third, look at what happened in the States with American Thanksgiving.

"You only have to read the stories, look at the figures to see what happens if people aren’t cautious right now over the Christmas period."

The first review of England’s tier allocation is due take place on Wednesday and NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, has urged "extreme caution" in moving any area of the country to a lower tier while areas should be moved into the highest tier of restrictions “as soon as this is needed, without any delay".

London now has the highest coronavirus rates in England and looks set to move into tier 3, potentially as soon as Monday.

In London, mayor Sadiq Khan has demanded further government action to bring the "deeply concerning" surge of cases in the capital under control – calls that include increased testing provision and compensations plans for businesses affected by any further restrictions.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Mr Khan said there had been "significant" coronavirus outbreaks among 10 to 19-year-olds in the capital, and that the government must consider asking schools and colleges to close early ahead of Christmas and reopen later in January.

But Downing Street has said schools are expected to stay open until the end of term.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: "We’ve consistently said that not being in school has a detrimental impact on children’s learning as well as their own personal development and mental health.

"Which is why we expect all schools and colleges to remain open until the end of term on Thursday, as schools have remained open throughout the pandemic."

When asked whether action will be taken against councils that close schools early, the spokesperson said: "Our regional school commissioner teams are working closely with schools and local authorities across the country and will continue to work with them and support them to remain open."