(Reuters) – NHS England said on Friday it had made plans to vaccinate all frontline staff against COVID-19 in the next few weeks following the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Nikita Kanani, the Nation Health Service medical director for primary care, said the vaccine will be administered to “all health and social care staff” by mid-February.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the NHS was under severe strain, as Britain recorded its highest daily death toll on Friday and London hospitals were at the risk of being overwhelmed.
Britain has the world’s fifth-highest COVID-19 death toll at nearly 80,000, and the 1,325 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test on Friday surpassed April’s record.
“From the middle of January, all NHS Trusts will be able to provide vaccinations for local healthcare and social care workers, which will be critical in keeping both them and patients safe,” the NHS said in an emailed statement.
“The life-saving jab will be offered to all staff across NHS services, including those who work in general practices, pharmacies, dentists and other primary and secondary care settings,” it said, adding that clinics will be scaled up to enable vaccinations seven days a week.
A number of staff have already received their first dose of the vaccine.
The NHS said it will prioritise the vaccination of its workers based on local risk assessments such as underlying health conditions and whether people are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
In a letter to NHS Trusts seen by Reuters, three key NHS England officials, including Kanani, said they were under an “immediate requirement to vaccinate frontline health and social care workers, ensuring maximum uptake of vaccination and timely, equitable access across staff groups”.
Britain, the first country to approve vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca, on Friday approved Moderna’s shot, which it hopes to begin administering this spring.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)