Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine arrives at hospitals
He reassured the nation on the eve of the Oxford vaccine rollout, with the NHS accelerating its biggest immunisation programme yet and opening hundreds of new jab hubs this week. The Prime Minister, facing demands to extend the closure of schools, called the vaccine “a triumph of British science”, while NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens said it is “a major milestone”. The health service is the first in the world to use the life-saving Oxford jab.
Vaccinations will initially be carried out at a small number of hospitals in the coming days and carefully monitored. Later in the week the majority of supplies will be sent to hundreds of GP-led services.
The Prime Minister, due to appear on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning, said: “The Oxford vaccine is a triumph of British science and I want to thank everyone involved in its development and production. From tomorrow, the NHS will start using it to give protection against Covid-19.”
He added: “We know there are challenges still ahead of us but I’m confident this is the year we will defeat coronavirus and start building back better.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the NHS has now given first inoculations to more than one million people and described tomorrow’s rollout as a historic day and “cause for celebration”.
The PM reassured the nation of the eve of the Oxford vaccine rollout
He said: “The vaccine is our way out and this huge achievement brings us a step closer to the normality we’ve all been working hard to reclaim.
“From tomorrow, the British public will begin to receive a second highly effective vaccine, starting with the most vulnerable and frontline care home and NHS staff – another significant milestone in the expansion of the vaccination programme.” Around one in five people aged 80-plus has been protected with the Pfizer jab and the immunisation drive is now being “rapidly accelerated”.
The NHS says tens of thousands of current and former staff have completed online training so they can deliver vaccinations into arms. It is giving GPs an extra £10 for every care home resident they inoculate by the end of the month, with the majority expected to be vaccinated by then.
NHS boss Sir Simon said: “The vaccination programme – the biggest in NHS history – has got off to a strong start and by New Year’s Day we had vaccinated more people than the rest of Europe combined.
“Now we have a second, more versatile jab in our armoury and NHS staff are expanding the programme as extra vaccine supplies come on-stream. The arrival of the Oxford jab – coupled with more Pfizer vaccine being made available – will allow us to protect many more people faster.”
More than 20 new Covid-19 testing centres for truckers heading to France are also being opened to keep the virus at bay and cross-Channel trade flowing.
Support will be provided for haulage firms to set up their own testing centres at depots with kits provided free of charge. HGVs using the port of Dover and Eurotunnel will be fast-tracked past queues if they have been tested before arriving in Kent.
Military staff will be at 10 of the new sites to provide virus testing, allowing hauliers to get a negative result in the required 72-hour window before arriving in Kent.
Experts say the country needs to be vaccinating three to four million people a week
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “As a result of the heroic efforts of hundreds of military and civilian personnel who have worked hard over the past 10 days, we have made incredible progress in clearing the queues of drivers left stranded as a result of the French government’s actions.
“If we are to keep traffic flowing in Kent, it is essential drivers are tested before they travel down to the area and that they have a Kent Access Permit before heading to the border.
“These new testing centres, both at service stations and inside businesses, will help reduce delays.” Meanwhile, former security minister Sir John Hayes stressed the importance of the vaccination programme reaching vulnerable people in rural areas.
The MP for South Holland and The Deepings in Lincs said local health visitors will play an “invaluable” part in making contact with isolated men and women.
The NHS says tens of thousands staff members have completed training so they can vaccinate patients
Sir John added: “The hospitals are a long journey for many of my constituents and unless we can get the vaccine out to local doctors, surgeries and health centres it will be very hard to get the take-up we need.”
North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen wants vaccine centres in his constituency and called for the programme to be stepped up faster.
He said: “The problem is that my constituents are hearing of friends around the country their own age who are getting the vaccine and they are not getting access to it. They wonder what they have done wrong.”
He said the country needs to be vaccinating three to four million people a week – with vets, dentists and medical students among those drafted in to deliver jabs.
He added: “This needs to be a national mobilisation.”
A spokesman for Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group said GP practices in Mr Bridgen’s constituency should begin vaccinating patients “within the next couple of weeks”.
The hospital trusts which will start delivering the Oxford vaccine tomorrow are Royal Free Hospital London NHS Foundation Trust; Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust; Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust; Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, and George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Warwickshire.
Vaccinations will initially be carried out at a small number of hospitals in the coming days
One of the first hospitals to take delivery of a batch yesterday was the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath, West Sussex. Dr George Findlay, chief medical officer and deputy chief executive, said the new vaccine will be much easier to administer as it can be kept at normal fridge temperature, rather than having to be stored at -70C like the Pfizer jab.
Hundreds of people are expected to be vaccinated per day at the Princess Royal site, building up a real momentum after the first few days.
Dr Findlay said: “We’ve got the infrastructure to invite people in for booked appointments. And we will make sure those appointments are full every day from tomorrow going forward.”
He added: “We started vaccinating on our other hospital site a few weeks ago. “It has been seen as a really positive step and gives staff more confidence to come to work.