Last reviewed 19 January 2021

In January 2021, the Department of Health & Social Care published the UK COVID-19 vaccines delivery plan.

The plan sets out:

  • how vaccines will be supplied

  • how they should be deployed to priority groups, including dosage strategies

  • locations where vaccinations will be delivered and who will deliver them

  • workforce details.

Regarding supply, the plan describes the decisions made to ensure that the UK has sufficient vaccines to cover the whole adult population. It states that the Government has so far secured access to 367 million doses from seven vaccine developers. Not all of these are currently approved or available, and some are still in development. There is detailed information about how the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was developed and about building UK vaccine manufacturing capability.

Of currently approved vaccines, the plan confirms that the UK has ordered:

  • 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

  • 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

  • 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Regarding prioritisation, the plan presents how the JCVI priority groups strategy will be implemented in practice. Here it breaks delivery into two phases.

  • Phase 1: protecting the greatest number of “at-risk” people (JCVI priority groups 1 to 9) in the shortest possible time.

  • Phase 2: achieving protection of the whole UK population.

The plan refers to the JCVI strategy, announced in December, for prioritising the first dose of the vaccines. It states that prioritising the first doses of vaccine for as many people as possible on the priority list will protect the greatest number of at-risk people overall in the shortest possible time. This will therefore have the greatest impact on reducing mortality, severe disease and hospitalisations, and in protecting the NHS and equivalent health services.

As the first phase of the programme is rolled out across the UK, the plan states that the Government will consider all relevant data and set out plans for Phase 2 of vaccination once all at-risk groups have been offered their first dose of vaccine.

The second phase of vaccination is likely to target those at higher risk of occupational exposure and/or delivering key public services, such as teachers and transport workers. However, this has yet to be confirmed.

Regarding locations, the plan describes three types of vaccination sites

  • Larger vaccination centres: re-purposed venues such as sports stadiums, theatres, and hotels used for mass vaccination drives with people offered an invitation and able to book a slot that suits them using the National Booking Service.

  • Hospital Hubs: based at NHS trusts, key to deploying new vaccines which can be initially deployed in controlled clinical settings.

  • Local Vaccination Services: principally general practice, working together in groups of Primary Care Networks, plus large and small Community Pharmacy sites, these community sites will provide the majority of vaccination services and will be key to delivery for at risk populations who prefer to “stay local”.

Sites will be brought online as soon as they are ready and as soon as vaccine can be supplied to them. By the end of January NHS England hope to have capacity to vaccinate at least 2 million people each week through:

  • 206 active hospital hub sites

  • around 1200 local vaccination service sites (including primary care networks and community pharmacy sites)

  • 50 vaccination centres.

It is hoped that this will provide “the right mix” of vaccination services for the whole population and for different communities. The plan acknowledges that the needs of rural and urban communities will be very different, and the needs of individual groups and communities need to be reflected in the mix.

Different vaccine types will be used across the delivery models, although individual sites will typically only deliver one vaccine type per day. This approach is intended to make best use of supply and maximise site capacity.

People will be invited to be vaccinated and should wait until they receive a letter from the NHS. More information, and access to the national booking service, can be found on the NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine webpage. People will need their 10-digit NHS number when they attend for their injection. They must wear a mask and should allow 30 to 45 minutes for their appointment. A date for their second dose will be made 11 to 12 weeks after the first dose.

Note that care home residents are in the highest priority JCVI group and will be vaccinated through local vaccination services on an outreach basis by general practice or other local vaccination teams using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Conducting vaccinations in care homes is thought to be safer than bringing residents into hubs.

The following timescales have been suggested for the plan.

  • All care home residents should be offered a vaccine by the end of January — this campaign is already underway and follows on from the majority of care home staff already having received their first vaccination from hospital hubs.

  • By mid-February the Government hopes to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the top four priority groups identified by the JCVI (ie all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, everyone over the age of 70, all frontline health and social care workers, and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable)

  • The rest of the priority groups will follow through to the spring.

  • It is hoped that vaccines will then be available for the rest of the adult population by the summer and for all adults to have been offered a first vaccination by September.

These timescales are estimates and subject to change and local variation as circumstances dictate.

Regarding workforce, the plan includes details of the campaign to expand the number of trained staff who are available to administer vaccinations, as well as those staff and volunteers willing to provide essential support, such as help with logistics, stewards, first-aiders and administration support.