London: Ten new large-scale centres, including a rugby ground, racecourse, food court and a cathedral, will open up next week across Britain to join the seven already delivering vaccines to immunise against COVID-19, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) said on Sunday.
It comes as a further 324,233 vaccine doses were administered across the UK to take the total above 3.5 million, a milestone hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a “fantastic national effort”.
The state-funded health service leading the UK’s “biggest” vaccination programme in history also confirmed more than 1 million people aged 80 or over have been invited to book a coronavirus jab at a Vaccination Centre.
There are now 1,000 general practice (GP) led services and more than 250 hospitals offering coronavirus vaccinations, with dozens of new high street pharmacies stores also jabbing people by the end of next week.
“The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in NHS history, is off to a strong start with more than three million people receiving the life-saving jab, including more than a third of those aged 80 or over,” said Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England.
“We are adding more sites as more vaccine supplies become available so that people can choose a convenient option, with around a million invites sent over the last week for those aged 80 and over. Having worked alongside clinicians at my local hospital I know how tough it is for our staff treating an increasing number of seriously ill people with COVID-19 so I cannot stress enough how important it is that everyone plays their part by practicing social distancing and following the national guidance,” she said.
The UK government is also urging the public to “play their part” in supporting the drive by helping people attend their appointments.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock asked people to commit to three pledges to “help out”, “join up” and “stay informed” during ongoing efforts to vaccinate, run clinical trials and share accurate health advice.
The NHS said that vaccination centres offer a convenient option for those who do not want to wait to be contacted by GPs or hospitals. People aged 80 or over living up to a 45-minute drive from the 17 centres are being written to with the option of choosing to arrange a vaccination there or at a pharmacy site through the new national booking service. Alternatively, people can choose to wait to be contacted in due course by their local GP-led vaccination service.
The NHS said it sent out 641,000 invitations last week and another 380,000 are landing on doormats this weekend. Another half a million will go out in the coming week.
Appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people who do book one are being asked not to turn up early to avoid creating queues. The 10 new centres mean there will be at least one in each health region and help to ensure that people are within reach of a jabbing service, including more rural parts of the country.
Care home residents who are unable to travel to vaccine centres, hospitals or GP-led sites, are being jabbed at their homes.
The NHS highlighted how it made history when Maggie Keenan became the first person in the world to be protected against coronavirus outside of a clinical trial when she received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at Coventry Hospital on December 8, 2020.
The NHS was also the first health system to deliver the new Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine when Brian Pinker, 82, was jabbed earlier this month.
The priority groups for receiving the vaccine were set by the government following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). The government has committed itself to a target of vaccinating all the vulnerable groups in the top JCVI categories by February 15.