Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
Tesco and Boots offer help with Covid-19 vaccine rollout
3 January 2021, 17:13
Tesco and Boots have offered to help with the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, as the UK prepares to deploy the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said there will be 530,000 doses of the new vaccine available at around 540 GP vaccination sites and 101 hospital sites on Monday.
The jab will be administered at a small number of hospitals for the first few days for surveillance purposes, before the bulk of supplies are sent to hundreds of GP-led services to be rolled out, according to NHS England.
Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which needs to be kept at around -70C, the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses can be kept in the fridge.
As efforts get underway to roll out the vaccine at speed, Tesco has reportedly offered its distribution arm to help, using its supply chain specialists and refrigerated lorries.
Meanwhile, Boots is opening three Covid-19 vaccination sites this month, in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester.
A spokesman for the high street chemist said: "Boots has extensive knowledge and experience of mass vaccination (having completed over a million flu vaccinations last year, for example) and we have developed a model for Covid-19 vaccination that is aligned with our exceptional safety, clinical and operational standards.
"We stand ready to do much more and our national network of pharmacy expertise is prepped to support the NHS and the Government to accelerate the rollout of the vaccine."
Hundreds of new vaccination sites - at both hospitals and GP-led services - are due to launch this week, joining the more than 700 already in operation, NHS England added.
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where the vaccine was developed, is expected to be among the first sites to administer it on Monday morning.
However, the UK's chief medical officers warned on Thursday that a vaccine shortage was a "reality that cannot be wished away".
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, who was involved in development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, has suggested that successive governments had left the nation unable to manufacture the vaccine at the pace needed in a pandemic.
A Government spokesman said: "The NHS has a clear vaccine delivery plan and the vaccine is being rolled out as quickly as doses can be supplied and quality checked, with over a million people already vaccinated right across the UK.
"We have long recognised the importance of vaccine manufacturing, having announced an innovation centre in 2018 and invested £93 million earlier this year to rapidly accelerate its construction alongside establishing a rapid deployment facility to begin production ahead of the centre opening."