Britain to begin fightback against COVID with ‘biggest immunisation programme in history’ | UK | News (Reports)

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Vaccine is a ‘great tool’ says WHO’s Margaret Harris

Hospital hubs across the country will start vaccinating from Tuesday, with patients over 80, at-risk NHS staff and care home workers at the front of the queue. Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance called the vaccines a “massive breakthrough” and said they represented a “lodestar to help guide us back to normal life”. Writing in the Sunday Express, Sir Patrick said UK science had been “instrumental” in vaccine development, and stressed safety would be at the forefront of the roll-out. He also warned that we would still need to be patient, saying: “No single vaccine is a panacea and optimism about the future must not come at the expense of vigilance today.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “This coming week will be a historic moment as we begin vaccination against Covid-19.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure we can overcome significant challenges to vaccinate care home residents as soon as possible too.

“I urge everybody to play their part to suppress this virus and follow the local restrictions to protect the NHS while they carry out this crucial work.”

The Government’s Vaccine Taskforce has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab – the first to get MHRA approval and the first to be deployed – as part of 357 million doses of seven vaccine candidates in total.

Vaccine

More than 5,000 members of the Armed Forces are on standby to assist with the roll-out (Image: Getty )

The scale of the operation was laid bare last night and described as “one of the greatest challenges the NHS has ever faced”.

The distribution of the vaccine is being undertaken by Public Health England and the NHS across the UK through systems specially adapted from those used for national immunisation programmes.

The first Pfizer vaccines have arrived from Belgium and are being stored securely around the country.

Pictures were released yesterday of freezers ready to be packed with coronavirus vaccines at a secure location in England.

They will be checked for transit damage, before every box, each containing five packs of 975 doses, is opened and unpacked.

As the vaccines need to be stored below minus 70C, temperature data will be checked.

The jab will then be made available to order by authorised sites in the NHS. There are around 50 sites in England so far.

The complexity of the vaccine means it can only be moved four times before being used.

For the first doses, it will be administered from Hospital Hubs.

Matt Hancock

Mr Hancock has suggested the rules may remain until enough of the population has been vaccinated (Image: Getty )

Defrosting takes a few hours and additional time is then needed to prepare it for injection.

More than 1,000 vaccination centres, operated by GPs, are also expected to be in operation shortly. Doctors have been told to be ready by December 14. It is hoped as the operation progresses, more centres can be run, and that local pharmacies can also be included.

Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients in sporting venues and conference centres are also planned.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “The NHS has a strong record of delivering large-scale vaccination programmes – from the flu jab, HPV vaccine and lifesaving MMR jabs – hardworking staff will once again rise to the challenge to protect the most vulnerable people from this awful disease.”

More than 5,000 members of the Armed Forces are on standby to assist with the roll-out, the majority to support the organisation and facilitation of vaccine centres at Nightingale hospitals, hospital trusts and inoculation centres.

Military Police units are on standby to support the police forces in escorting the vaccines to their destination in the event of any traffic congestion.

Dr Gillies O’Bryan-Tear, chairman of the Policy and Com-munications Group at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, said the vaccine news meant the world could “breath a sigh of relief”.

He predicted the country could be in the lowest risk tier by March.

Sir Patrick Vallance

Sir Patrick Vallance called the vaccines a ‘massive breakthrough’ (Image: Getty )

He said: “We will see the mortality curve diving down and the political pressure to ease restrictions will rise leading to a ratcheting down of lockdown measures.”

However, Mr Hancock has suggested the rules may stay in place until enough of the population has been vaccinated, which could be autumn or even 2022.

But Professor Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh university who advises the Government on pandemic policy, said there was no need to wait.

He added: “The first thing any government should do when it puts lockdown restrictions in is to immediately focus on how to lift the restrictions. What I don’t want is that we wait all the way until the end of the vaccine roll-out before we lift the restrictions.”

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