The NHS is set to begin vaccinating patients against coronavirus at dozens of hospital hubs across the country, as part of the UK’s biggest immunisation programme in history.
NHS staff have been working tirelessly to prepare for the launch of the inoculation programme, with the first vaccinations taking place from Tuesday onwards.
People aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers, will be the first to receive the jab, along with NHS workers who are at higher risk.
It follows the MHRA having approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for UK use last week.
There are 50 hubs set to deliver vaccinations as part of the first round of the programme, with more hospitals set to begin vaccinating over the coming weeks and months as the UK ramps up the programme.
Patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, are set to be among the first to receive the life-saving jab.
Hospitals delivering the immunisation will also begin inviting over-80s in to receive the jab, as well as working with care home providers to book their staff in to vaccination clinics.
Any available appointments not used for people from these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at the highest risk of serious illness from Covid-19.
Everyone vaccinated will require a booster jab 21 days later to ensure the vaccine remains effective.
GPs and other primary care staff have also been put on standby to start delivering vaccinations. A small number of GP-led primary care networks will begin doing so from next week – week beginning December 14, 2020 – with more practices around the country joining in on a phased basis during December and into the new year.
Once further supplies of vaccine comes on board, vaccination centres capable of treating large numbers of patients – established temporarily in sporting venues and conference centres – will be subsequently stood up.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: “Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday.
“The first tranche of vaccine deliveries will be landing at hospitals by Monday in readiness.
The NHS has a strong record of delivering large scale vaccination programmes – from the flu jab, HPV vaccine and lifesaving MMR jabs – hardworking staff will once again rise to the challenge to protect the most vulnerable people from this awful disease.”
The currently-approved Covid-19 vaccine is typically delivered through a simple injection in the shoulder, but there remain complex logistical challenges in delivering it from the manufacturer to patients.
It needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out, and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used. At present, this largely limits it functional use outside of hospital and specialist settings, where there would be limited cold chain capabilities to support the vaccine’s delivery.
However, where it can be suitably transported and stored, NHS staff have been working diligently to prepare sites and accept deliveries.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “This coming week will be an historic moment as we begin vaccination against COVID-19.
We are prioritising the most vulnerable first and over-80s, care home staff and NHS colleagues will all be among the first to receive the vaccines.
We are doing everything we can to make sure we can overcome significant challenges to vaccinate care home residents as soon as possible too.
I urge everybody to play their part to suppress this virus and follow the local restrictions to protect the NHS while they carry out this crucial work.”
The full list of 50 hospital hub, which will form the first vaccination sites, are as follows: