Behind the scenes

Coronavirus: will Boris Johnson’s 24/7 vaccine rollout work?

Government ministers voice doubts about plan to speed up mass immunisation programme

Vaccination centres across England will offer a round-the-clock service under new plans by Boris Johnson to speed up the rollout of Covid-19 jabs.

The prime minister promised yesterday that “we will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can” - but “said supply was the limiting factor at the moment”, the BBC reports. The NHS had just over a million doses available last week, but that supply has depleted quickly.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson said that the more than 200 hospitals and 1,000 GP-led NHS vaccination sites now offering the Covid jabs were already “going exceptionally fast”.

But with the total UK tally of Covid-related deaths passing the 100,000 mark on Wednesday, the pressure is on for the PM to deliver an even quicker rollout.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has welcomed the planned 24/7 service, adding: “The sooner the better for our NHS and for our economy.”

According to a government source, the round-the-clock vaccines service is “likely to be limited initially to healthcare workers” before being widened out to the rest of the population, says The Times.

But some ministers have questioned the wisdom and practicality of the plan. Nadhim Zahawi, who is overseeing England’s vaccine rollout, told the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee yesterday that rather than offering a 24-hour service, the government should concentrate on inoculating the most vulnerable.

Meanwhile, Tory peer Lord James Bethell told the House of Lords that “even NHS workers do have to sleep. It is impossible to run operations through the night on a mass scale.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also raised questions about the demand for 24/7 services, telling BBC Breakfast yesterday that while the NHS was “up for” the challenge, most people wanted to be vaccinated during the day.  

However and whenever the jabs are delivered, supply problems are continuing to hobble to government pledge to inoculate a total of at least 13 million people against Covid by mid-February.

Latest government data shows that the number of people in the UK to have been given a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine was 2,639,309 as of yesterday, up by 207,661 from Tuesday.

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