The Pfizer vaccine must be used within 12 hours of being unpacked, the regulator says

The Covid-19 vaccine will “definitely” be ready to go into care homes in the next two weeks, the regulator has said.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it has approved the way doses will be distributed to homes.

It means care home residents and staff may not be the first to receive jabs, despite being the top priority.

But the UK’s chief medical officers say the vaccine will only have a “marginal impact” on winter hospital numbers.

In a letter to colleagues, the chief medical officers of England (Prof Chris Whitty); Scotland (Dr Gregor Smith); Wales (Dr Frank Atherton); and Northern Ireland (Dr Michael McBride), warn this winter could be “especially hard” for the health service due to coronavirus.

They said: “Although the very welcome news about vaccines means that we can look forward to 2021 with greater optimism, vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with Covid over the next three months.”

They added they did not expect the virus to “disappear” even once full vaccination had occurred.

Festive gatherings are likely to place “additional pressure” on hospitals and GPs in the New Year, which “we need to be ready for”, the experts said.