However, the Government appears to be making plans for much earlier delivery. This week it emerged that GPs have been told to draw up plans to start administering the vaccine to over-85s and frontline workers from the beginning of December, according to the GP magazine Pulse.
Any vaccine proposed for use in the UK must be approved by regulators to say it is safe and sufficiently effective to roll out.
Usually, the JCVA then advises the Government whether it is of sufficient value for money to be purchased and delivered by the NHS. However, the Government has already purchased large quantities of Covid vaccines in development, meaning that, in this instance, the JCVI only has to endorse their roll-out through NHS services.
The committee is currently working up proposals for who should get the vaccine first, and how it should be delivered to them. It will not finalise its advice until it has factored in evidence of how effective the vaccines are for each age group and any risks they pose.
The JCVI is highly unlikely to reject the Covid vaccines outright, provided they are approved by regulators, but could “push back” if they are not sufficiently effective or restrict their use if they are less effective in certain age groups, a source said.
For example, if a vaccine was less effective in the over-80s, the committee could advise ministers not to give it to the over-80s but protect that age group by administering the vaccine to those who live and work with them.
A Department of Health and Social Care source said: “The JCVI advises ministers, but it’s a ministerial decision who to prioritise.”
Professor Wei Shen Lim, who chairs the JCVI’s Covid group, said in a statement issued by Public Health England that its members are independent and would only give their advice after “considering all available evidence”, but that they recognised the importance of doing so “in a timely manner”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The independent JCVI is advising the Government on which groups of people to prioritise for potential Covid-19 vaccines. It does not endorse or approve vaccines.”