Hundreds of doctor’s surgeries and other GP-run vaccination centres across England will receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca supplies today.
The programme aims to vaccinate most residents in care homes by the end of January, with the campaign set to be the largest in NHS history. Over 700 local vaccination sites will be offering the vaccine.
This week, there will be 180 sites opening led by general practitioners and 100 new hospital sites. A pilot scheme involving local pharmacies will also commence this week, along with sites offering "drive-through" vaccinations.
Opening next week are an additional seven major vaccination hubs. Venues such as the Excel Centre in London – also the site of a Nightingale hospital - and Millennium Point in Birmingham are set to offer the jabs.
The ultimate aim is to administer the jab to the top four priority groups by the middle of February. The top four groups are:
- Care home residents and workers.
- Over 80s, and health and social care workers.
- Over 75s.
- Over 70s, and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
Brian Pinker, 82, was the first person to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab earlier this week. Other patients in selected hospitals also received the vaccination in recent days. The jab will now be made available to thousands of other people in the top four priority groups. The Oxford vaccination is easier to deliver to higher numbers of people. It does not need to be stored at below-freezing temperatures. It can, therefore, be offered to people from sites closer to people’s residences.
GP and medical director for primary care at NHS England, Dr Nikki Kanani, said the programme was "already off to a strong start with around one million people already vaccinated against coronavirus".
"We will now be able to protect many more vulnerable people against the virus and faster."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “delighted” that care homes would be receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab this week.
He told the BBC, "This will ensure the most vulnerable are protected and will save tens of thousands of lives."
Regarding the third national lockdown in England as well as restrictions in other parts of the UK, he went on to say, "As our vaccination programme ramps up, I urge everybody to continue following the latest restrictions to keep cases low and protect loved ones."
Wednesday saw another record number of new cases, at 62,322. Daily reported deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test surged to 1,041.