'Significant progress' tackling care home vaccine issue

Barry Gardiner MP and health secretary Matt Hancock.

Barry Gardiner MP and health secretary Matt Hancock. - Credit: PA/Gareth Fuller/Tolga Akmen

Concerns have been raised with health secretary Matt Hancock about possible delays getting the Covid-19 vaccine to care home residents.

After Mr Hancock's statement to Parliament about coronavirus restrictions on Thursday (December 17), Brent North MP Barry Gardiner asked about issues around splitting up packs of the vaccine.

Mr Hancock told the House there has been "significant progress on tackling this issue".

Referencing James Canning, Brent's first octogenarian to receive the vaccine earlier this week, he said: "While congratulating him and the Wembley Practice team who delivered it, does the secretary of state share my concern that care homes in Brent have been advised that the 970 doses that are in the vaccine packs cannot be split because of the licensing conditions, meaning that those in our care homes who are over 80 may have to wait until February or for the Oxford vaccine before they get vaccinated?

"Is that the case? If so, why? That is hardly the 'protective ring' around care homes that he promised."

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Mr Hancock replied: "I am glad to say that we are making significant progress on tackling this issue. When the honourable gentleman says it is a licensing concern, that should not be read to imply that it is some bureaucratic rule; it is about ensuring that things are done safely. If the vaccine is not delivered safely to the site, it is not an effective vaccine. Therefore, we are taking it carefully to be able to vaccinate in care homes.

"There has been some vaccination in care homes across the UK, so it can be done, and I hope we can make good progress soon."

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Mr Gardiner wrote to care homes in his constituency afterwards, saying: "I spoke with the health secretary after the statement and he confirmed that the problem arose because they did not wish to waste any doses.

"PHE are now looking at splitting packs and I have suggested that if there are surplus vaccine doses anticipated at any care home they should arrange for care staff and the ambulatory vulnerable to be given appointments to attend and receive the surplus. He welcomed that suggestion."

READ MORE: First Covid vaccine rolled out in Brent

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