All staff working for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK will be offered a coronavirus vaccine from mid-January to protect against rising cases of the virus nationwide, a press statement from NHS England said on Friday.
Following Monday’s rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, NHS England wrote to health trusts across the UK about their plans to vaccinate staff across all NHS services.
They include staff in general practices, pharmacies, dentists, ambulance trusts, volunteers and community-based mental health services.
Previously, only frontline NHS staff were being vaccinated.
“We will be prioritising the nurses, doctors and other frontline staff who continue to work tirelessly, before administering the vaccine to almost all health and social care staff by mid-February,” Ruth May, NHS England’s Chief Nursing Officer said.
Vaccinations among NHS staff will be subject to a risk assessment, prioritizing the most in need. It will take into account risk factors including underlying health conditions, face-to-face contact or staff from a Black, Asian or minority background.
Ethnic minorities have a higher coronavirus death rate than their White peers, according to the UK government. People of Bangladeshi ethnicity have around twice the risk of dying from the virus than their White British counterparts, while those of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Black Caribbean and other Black ethnicities have between a 10 and 50% higher risk of death.
The NHS announcement comes after the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” in London on Friday due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus — which is putting the NHS under pressure and adding to the risk of it being overwhelmed.
On Thursday, Khan said the London hospitals may run out of beds in the “next few days.”
“This virus is out of control. The NHS is on the cusp of being overwhelmed. There has been no time during this pandemic where I’ve been more concerned than I am today,” Khan said.