The NHS is expecting a coronavirus vaccine to become available at the beginning of 2021, its chief executive has confirmed in a press conference today (November 4).
Speaking at University College London Hospital, Sir Simon Stevens said the health service is also making preparations should it become available before Christmas.
GPs have been contacted regarding the distribution and administration of any vaccine, in an attempt to get them ‘geared up to start’ before the end of 2020.
He said: “There are over 200 vaccines in development, and I believe that we should hopefully get one or more of those available certainly from the first part of next year.
“But in anticipation of that, we’re also gearing the NHS up to be ready to make a start on administering Covid vaccines before Christmas if they become available.
“And in fact, we have reached agreement with the GPs to ensure that they will be doing that, and we will be writing to GP practices this week to get them geared up to start before Christmas if the vaccine becomes available.”
Any vaccines are expected to be administered to over-85s as a priority.
Earlier today, the head of the NHS in England has suggested that all patient-facing health service staff will soon be given routine Covid-19 tests.
Sir Simon Stevens said new tests and increased capacity mean that testing for all frontline workers – regardless of whether they have symptoms – should begin within six to eight weeks.
Routine testing of NHS staff is already taking place in the hardest-hit areas.
He added that, so far, 70,000 staff in those regions have been tested in recent weeks.
There are currently “22 hospitals’ worth” of Covid-19 patients in hospitals in England, the head of the NHS has said.
Sir Simon said there had been a “very substantial” increase in “desperately sick patients in hospitals” in October.