Behind the scenes

Coronavirus: the UK’s plan to vaccinate 11 million people in five weeks

Seven NHS vaccination hubs opening today in ‘vitally important week’

Seven new mass vaccination centres are opening their doors this morning as the NHS ramps up efforts to inoculate a total of at least 13 million people against Covid-19 by mid-February.

Around two million people in the UK have already received the jabs, according to latest figures, with the initial push focused on vaccinating the over-80s and front-line health and care staff.

But the launch of the regional vaccination hubs, located in sports stadiums and business centres across England, will enable the health service to deliver many thousands more jabs each week, “as we continue to expand our programme at breakneck speed”, said Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Politico London Playbook’s Alex Wickham says the coming seven days will be “a vitally important week for Downing Street as it tries to meet expectations on its rapid scaling up of the rollout”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will today unveil the government’s so-called Vaccine Delivery Plan, “giving us the first real detail of exactly how ministers hope to hit their target”, Wickham adds.

The new hubs are based at sites including the London Nightingale Hospital, Bristol’s Ashton Gate stadium and Manchester’s Etihad Stadium Tennis Club, and will play a key role in what is the biggest vaccination programme “in NHS history”, says the BBC.

NHS England says that “dozens more” large-scale sites will follow. 

“Hundreds more GP-led and hospital services are also due to open this week along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total to around 1,200,” the health service reports.

And “the new services will also be the first to deploy trained volunteers from both St John Ambulance and the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme alongside NHS staff, more than 80,000 of who have completed the clinical training needed to administer vaccines so far” .

As the rollout gathers pace, health bosses are calling on members of the public anxious to be innoculated against Covid to sit tight and wait their turn. 

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said: “Please don’t contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, we will contact you. When we do contact you, please attend your booked appointments.”

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