According to a health official, the vast majority of people over 80 will have to wait until next year to receive the Covid-19 vaccination.
Vaccinations will be distributed via dozens of hospital hubs from Tuesday 8 December, a date which Health Secretary Matt Hancock has dubbed “V-Day”.
‘Vast majority waiting until 2021’
Talking to the PA news agency, Hopson said, “I don’t think people should expect anything over the next few days because the reality is, as I said, that for the vast, vast majority of people this will be done in January, February, March.
“And the one thing that we don’t want people to get anxious about or concerned about is ‘Where’s my letter?’ in December.
“People really shouldn’t worry if they’re over 80 and they haven’t had a letter.
“I’m sure there will be communications over the next few weeks that will tell people how quickly we are getting through the over 8-s, and there will be plenty of communications to say, at the right point, if you haven’t had a letter than you should talk to your GP, but we are many weeks away from that.”
Hopson emphasised that those who haven’t heard anything about receiving the vaccine should “hang fire” and not become concerned.
“We haven’t forgotten you, and we’ll certainly tell you at the point at which you need to start worrying if you haven’t been contacted, but that will be many, many weeks away,” Hopson said.
‘Marathon, not a sprint’
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said that the rollout and distribution of the vaccine is a “marathon, not a sprint”.
The distribution of the vaccine across the country is being undertaken by Public Health England and the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through systems specially adapted from those used for the national immunisation programmes.
GPs will be expected to administer the vaccine according to the priority list set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
However the British Medical Association (BMA) has said that there has been “mixed messaging” about when higher risk people can expect to be vaccinated.
BMA chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that the government needed to be “crystal clear” about when priority groups will be vaccinated, after “mixed messaging about when came homes, high risk patients in the community and NHS staff can expect to be vaccinated”.
Vaccination priority list
The JCVI advises that the first priorities for the Covid-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems.
“As the risk of mortality from Covid-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age,” the government states.
The priority list for the vaccine is as follows:
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- All those 80 years of age and over, and frontline health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over, and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- All those 65 years of age and over
- All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- All those 60 years of age and over
- All those 55 years of age and over
- All those 50 years o age and over
“It is estimated that taken together, these groups represent around 99 per cent of preventable mortality from Covid-19,” the government says.