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Huge Covid-19 vaccination drive is still growing

12:00am | & Health

Life-saving Covid-19 jabs are now being delivered by the NHS from well over 1,400 vaccination sites across the country, with more being added all the time.

Just seven weeks after 91-year-old Maggie Keenan became the first person in the world to be vaccinated against the virus outside of a trial, the NHS is now vaccinating more than 2.2 million people per week as the national campaign gathers pace.

Maggie received her jab at a hospital in Coventry, partly because the first vaccine to be approved (manufactured by Pfizer) has to be stored at very low temperatures in specialist conditions. Subsequent approval of the UK-manufactured Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine triggered a major ramp-up of the vaccination programme. It can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, making it much easier to distribute and deliver.

Vaccinations are now being carried out by many local GP surgeries and pharmacies, as well as vaccination centres set up in sports halls, places of worship, council chambers, football stadiums and countless other venues nationwide. More sites are being added each week, including a growing number of supermarket pharmacies.

Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for the NHS in England, said: “The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in health service history, has got off to a strong start. NHS staff have worked hard with businesses, community and faith groups to set up an extensive network of vaccination sites that offer a range of options for people in all areas to receive their injection.

“We want to protect as many people as swiftly as possible and this latest milestone, with more than 1,400 sites up and running, means we can continue to expand delivery as more vaccine supplies come on stream.”

Some of the ‘Nightingale Hospitals’ originally set up to treat Covid-19 patients are now being converted to use as vaccination hubs. NHS staff are also visiting those who cannot go to their local service or travel to a vaccination centre.

Millions of people in the top four priority groups – including people aged 70 years old and over and those who are deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable – are being invited to arrange a vaccination site through the national booking service. Those who cannot or do not want to travel can wait to be invited to their local GP service or hospital.

The country’s leading doctors and nurses have urged people only to come to a vaccination centre when invited to do so, to help ensure that priority groups are served first and to maintain safe social distancing at every venue.

Andrew Lane, chairman of the National Pharmacy Association, said: “Pharmacies are becoming part of the Covid-19 vaccination infrastructure in more and more parts of England.

“It’s great that many independent pharmacies are rising to the challenge, alongside the national chains, GPs, hospitals and others, in this vital combined effort. We’re confident that pharmacies will become increasingly core to the success of the vaccination programme as it rolls out. They can reach into communities across the land, to vaccinate, advise and care.”

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