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Keir Starmer demands Government use pharmacies to deliver 24-hour Covid vaccines
13 January 2021, 22:32
Thousands of pharmacies must be used to help deliver round-the-clock coronavirus vaccinations by the end of next month, Sir Keir Starmer has urged.
The Labour leader - who will visit a vaccination centre in Stevenage on Thursday - said the Government needs to "match the nation's ambition" with a 24/7 rollout of jabs.
He has called on ministers to deploy England's 11,500 community pharmacies to guarantee vaccines can be delivered on every high street.
Sir Keir has also urged the Government to increase capacity to four million vaccinations a week by the end of February.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday that the NHS will launch a round-the-clock vaccination service as soon as possible, despite Downing Street previously saying there was no appetite for a 24/7 model.
The Government has also said they are considering what further role community pharmacies can play, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that 200 would be coming on stream for vaccinations "very shortly".
Sir Keir said: "The whole country wants this rollout to succeed. We were the first to get the vaccine and if we get this right and pull together, I know we can be the first country to roll it out successfully.
"To do that, the Government needs to match the nation's ambition with a 24/7 rollout which harnesses all the expertise and dedication our country has to offer.
"Every high street has a pharmacy and I want to see every possible pharmacy deployed to help.
"Labour will play our part. Labour councils are already stepping up, supporting their communities and making generous offers of support to the Government.
"Across those communities, pharmacists stand ready to play their part too. Let's use them, and let's vaccinate Britain."
Meanwhile, deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam told LBC that people are likely to need regular coronavirus vaccines in the same way as the flu jab.
Speaking during AskJVT, he said he "can't say whether [the vaccine will be needed] every year yet" but conceded he did not think "we will ever eradicate” the virus.
“What I think we will do over time is to make it largely vaccine-preventable in the same way that flu is and be able to live with it safely," he added.
It comes amid warnings that hospitals across England could be overwhelmed with virus patients, with several reporting shortages in oxygen.