ELDERLY people in care homes may miss out on the first batch of Covid jabs because the vaccine is a "logistical nightmare" to transport, health experts have warned.
Care home residents and workers are first in line for the jab, followed by the over-80s, NHS and care staff.
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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), say care home residents and workers should get the vaccine first as they are most at risk of death from Covid-19.
But there are fears that elderly residents may miss out on the first batch due to logistical issues.
The vaccine must be transported at -70C, moved only four times and given from a tray of 975 vials that cannot legally be split.
In Britain, a typical care home has just a few dozen residents, meaning hundreds of vials costing around £15 each would be wasted.
It makes administering the jab in care homes a "logistical nightmare," and pushes others to the forefront of the queue.
Shipments for the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive within the next seven days but instead of going to care homes, they are set to go to around 50 "vaccine hubs" across the country.
When that programme is well under way – which could be as soon as January – under-50s will be the next in line to get the jab.
Jobs at high risk of exposure to the bug will be prioritised after that, with teachers, bus drivers and members of the Armed Forces high on the list.
Who will get the jab first?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published the official list of vaccine prioritisation today.
The vaccine will be given out in this order:
1. Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
2 All those 80 years of age and over
Frontline health and social care workers
3 All those 75 years of age and over
4 All those 70 years of age and over
Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals*
5 All those 65 years of age and over
6 All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health
conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and
7 All those 60 years of age and over
8 All those 55 years of age and over
9 All those 50 years of age and over
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI, said at a Downing Street briefing this morning this first wave of vaccination will aim to cover 99.9 per cent of those who are at highest risk of Covid-19.
The group have chosen the elderly to receive the jab first because they are most at risk of dying from Covid-19. Healthcare workers will be next in line because they are at higher risk of catching the virus, and spreading it in healthcare facilities.
Professor Lim said by protecting the NHS workforce, lives will be saved.
Explaining efforts to get the jab to those who need it most, Professor Wei Shin Lim, Chairman of the JCVI, said: "JCVI advice is that every effort should be made to offer vaccine to care home residents.
"Whether or not that is actually doable is dependent on deployment on implementation."
Boris Johnson echoed his concerns as he hailed the virus breakthrough, noting there is a risk that "if [the vaccine] is allowed to degenerate by being improperly handled it simply wont work".
His fears were matched by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, who warned the vaccine was "not a yogurt that can be put back in the fridge and taken out multiple times".
The makers of the jab, however, appear more optimistic.
Sean Marett, Chief Commerical Officer at BionTech, said the vaccine can in fact be kept safely between 2C and 8C for up to five days.
He explained: "We have stability studies now really supporting the evidence of being able to transport up to six hours at 2C to 8C, so you can really take vials from the vaccination centre one of the large ones, put them in a bag at 2C - 8c and take them to the care homes where they can be administered directly to the patients."
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The UK became the first country in the world to give a Covid vaccine the green light - with mass vaccinations planned from next week.
An initial 800,000 doses, covering 400,000 people, will be made available, after final checks at the manufacturing warehouse in Belgium today.
"Several millions" more will come throughout December, but the bulk of the bulk of the roll-out will take place in the new year.