Mass vaccination sites open across England as jab programme ramps up

10 January 2021, 23:58 | Updated: 11 January 2021, 12:32

Millennium Point Covid Vaccination Centre in Birmingham
Millennium Point Covid Vaccination Centre in Birmingham. Picture: LBC

By Maddie Goodfellow

Thousands more people are expected to be given a Covid-19 jab as seven mass vaccination sites open across England on Monday.

The new centres - including at a football stadium and a tennis club - will be joined later this week by hundreds more GP-led and hospital services along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total to around 1,200, NHS England said.

Queues formed outside the sites early on Monday morning as nurses prepared to vaccinate thousands at socially distanced tables or cubicles.

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Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said the ramping up of vaccination sites would help "protect even more people".

The mass vaccine sites will each be capable of delivering thousands of vaccinations each week and could increase their operations according to vaccine supplies and demand, NHS England said.

The Government is aiming to vaccinate almost 14 million vulnerable people - including the over-80s, care home residents and health and care staff - by the middle of February.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said they are on course to meet the target, with over 200,000 people being vaccinated every day in England and a third of over-80s already jabbed.

Around two million in the UK now have now received their first dose of the vaccine.

The seven new England vaccine centres opening on Monday are: Ashton Gate in Bristol, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, the Excel Centre where London's Nightingale hospital is based, Newcastle's Centre for Life, the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, Robertson House in Stevenage and Birmingham's Millennium Point.

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The locations for the centres were chosen to give a geographical spread covering as many people as possible, NHS England said.

Some 600 invites were due to be sent over the weekend and this coming week to people aged 80 and above who live up to a 45-minute drive from one of the new centres, as well as health and care staff.

Moira Edwards, 88, became the first person to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab at Epsom racecourse in Surrey at around 8.15am.

Ms Edwards, from Cobham in Surrey, who received her first dose beside her daughter Clare Edwards, said it was "extremely important" to get the vaccine.

She said: "I had no hesitation at coming forward for my vaccination when it was offered to me. I have quite a large family, who all live near me, and feel it is extremely important to protect myself and them.

"Having this vaccine makes it a step closer to being with my family again and giving them a big hug."

Great-grandfather Nana Kwabena Edusei, 81, was the first member of the public to be jabbed at Newcastle's Centre for Life, which will be able to vaccinate eight patients every five minutes.

Mr Edusei, a retired manager with Associated British Foods, said after his experience: "It was not a problem at all.

"They asked me a few questions about my health, I signed a form, everything went smoothly, I didn't feel the injection at all. I'm so surprised.

"I'm very pleased I have had the injection and now I am relaxed that I know I have had it."

The father of three, who has three grandchildren, was born in Ghana and has been in the UK for 55 years, living in Heaton, Newcastle.

He urged other people his age to be vaccinated, saying: "I'm going to tell all my friends that it's a good thing to have done."

Mr Hancock is due to visit one of the centres before setting out the Government's vaccines delivery plan at a Downing Street press conference on Monday afternoon.

He has described the plan as "the keystone of our exit out of the pandemic", while Nadhim Zahawi, the minister in charge of vaccine deployment, said it will "set out our ambitions for the coming weeks and months as we continue to expand our programme at breakneck speed, with strategies to underpin every commitment".

The Health Secretary said: “Since the historic day the first vaccine was approved, the NHS has made fantastic strides in offering the vaccine to as many at risk people as possible and at record pace.

“We have worked closely with experts across the NHS, local governments and the armed forces to put in place full and thorough preparations for this rollout – this is the biggest vaccination programme in British history.

“From today, the full scale of our plans will be published, so the public can be assured of the time, effort and resources that have gone and will go into ensuring we protect the British people from the scourge of this virus.

“The U.K. vaccine delivery plan will be the keystone of our exit out of the pandemic, but we all must continue to play our part by staying at home, following the rules and keeping hands, face, space at the forefront of our minds when out and about.”

Professor Powis said: "Increasing supplies means the NHS can open even more vaccination services and protect even more people this week.

"While my NHS colleagues are working hard to ensure we can offer vaccines to all of those who would benefit most over the next month, at the same time as providing care for everyone who needs it, we need the public to help us.

"Please don't contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, we will contact you. When we do contact you, please attend your booked appointments."

He reminded everyone, whether they have had a vaccine or not, they need to keep following all the guidance "to control the virus and save lives - that means staying at home as much as you can, and following the 'hands, face, space' guidance when you can't".

Meanwhile, Boots said its first vaccination site is due to open later this week to offer the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab to the people most vulnerable.

The pharmaceutical firm said sites in Huddersfield and Gloucester are planned to open in the coming weeks.

Seb James, Boots managing director, said: "Our vaccination sites are clean, clinical environments, inaccessible, convenient locations, like high streets, and we have extensive experience in vaccination services, having carried out over a million flu vaccinations in this winter flu season alone.

"We hope to help the NHS and enable more people to get the vaccination quickly."

Of the almost 1,000 vaccination sites currently open across the country, the NHS said almost 800 are GP-led services which are expected to deliver most of the jabs.