A beginner’s guide to COVID vaccination

A quick summary of what we know so far,* including the exciting codenames for the new vaccines... [* Liable to change at a moment’s notice, with most information provided to GPs actively contradicted within 24 hours of delivery…]

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With COVID Vaccination hopefully due to start in December, some people remain confused about how everything is going to work. Here then, is a quick summary of what we know so far.*

[* “What we know so far” is liable to change at a moment’s notice, with most information provided to GPs actively contradicted within 24 hours of delivery.]

Who is going to administer the vaccine?

GPs will be leading the vaccination programme thanks to their “proven track record in delivering widespread vaccination campaigns, such as this year’s flu programme”.  Although there will also be national large-scale vaccination sites, and NHS Trusts will be tasked with delivering them too. In fact, those sites will likely be getting the vaccine first.

Still, other than the hospitals, and the mass vaccination sites, GPs will be leading the way – just from a little bit behind. For that reason, surgeries and PCNs need to continue to plan for delivery of the vaccine from December 1st – after all they remain the experts at delivering campaigns like flu vaccination.

Is it like flu vaccination?

No, it’s not like flu vaccination at all.

Which vaccine are we using?

We don’t know yet, there are a number considered to be in the front running, with exciting codenames like “Talent” and “Courageous”. (The latter does not reflect the required characteristics of those agreeing to receive it.) 

Some vaccines need to be transported at temperatures of -70oC, and need to be used quickly. “Courageous” for example can survive in a fridge once it’s been defrosted for 5 days, but has to be used within 6 hours of dilution, and comes in packs of 975 doses.

The vaccines are described as very unstable, and as such probably can’t be transported once delivered to the initial site. Which means you can’t use them for visits, or take them to another surgery. Unless you can. But probably not. No-one knows. Or do they? They don’t. Possibly.

Rumours that the vaccine can be safely transported in an ice-cream van have been entirely made up by me, but frankly seem no more ridiculous than the rest of it. “Do you remember the COVID vaccines,  Grandad?”  “Oooh, yes, they used to drive up to the end of your street in a little van playing ‘Ring a Ring a Roses’ and all the kids would run out with their sleeves rolled up to get their jab from the Vaccine Man, along with a 99 flake.”

(There are suggestions that Moderna’s vaccine may be slightly better behaved, but the UK didn’t buy much of that so, erm, we don’t like to talk about it.)

Who will get the vaccine?

The Government has identified specific cohorts that should receive vaccination in order of risk. Care home residents and their carers first, then the over 80’s and health care workers, then 75-80, 70-75, 65-70, high risk adults under 65, medium risk under 65 and so on.

Wait, but didn’t you say it can’t be transported? So…



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Chris Preece

GP Partner

I've worked as a GP Partner in North Yorkshire since 2004, and still relish the peculiar challenge of never quite knowing what the next person through the door is going to present with. I sat on the Governing Body of my local CCG until April 2015, and despite thinking I had escaped that world for good, I'm now the Clinical Director of a Primary Care Network. When not being consumed by all things medical, I occupy myself by writing, gaming, and indulging the whims of my children. I have previously written and performed in a number of pantomimes, occupied the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square and won the 2016 “Caterpillar Story for Children Prize”. Tragically, my patients no longer tell me I look too young to be a doctor.
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