Ten new mass Covid jab centres open as drive to vaccinate picks up pace

Ten further mass vaccination centres are due to open in England this week with more than a million over-80s invited to receive their coronavirus jab as part of the drive to protect 15m people in the most vulnerable groups by mid-February.

It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock urged the public to “play their part” in supporting “the largest vaccination programme in British history”, including helping the elderly attend their appointments.

Mr Hancock called on the public to commit to three pledges to “help out”, “join up” and “stay informed” during ongoing efforts to vaccinate, run clinical trials and share accurate health advice.

Official figures released on Saturday showed 3,559,179 people have now received their first dose of vaccine – a rise of 324,233 in 24 hours, bringing the total protected to around one in 19 of the UK population.

On Saturday 1,295 daily deaths were reported, increasing the pandemic death toll to 88,590. But numbers of positive cases reported over a 24-hour period fell to 41,346.

Blackburn Cathedral, St Helens rugby ground, Norwich Food Court and a park-and-ride outside York are among the new locations where large-scale vaccination will take place from Monday.

NHS England said they joined the seven existing mass vaccination sites across the country, alongside a thousand GP-led surgeries and more than 250 hospitals already providing jabs.

The 10 new centres opening from Monday are:

– Bournemouth International Centre on the south coast

– Taunton Racecourse in Somerset

– Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire

– Salt Hill Activity Centre in Slough, Berkshire

– Norwich Food Court in Norfolk

– The Lodge in Wickford, Essex

– Princess Royal Sports Arena in Lincolnshire

– St Helens Rugby Ground in Merseyside

– The park-and-ride at Askham Bar in York

– Olympic Office Centre in Wembley, north London

People aged 80 or over who live up to a 45-minute drive from a centre are being offered the choice of arranging a jab at one of the 17, or at a pharmacy site through the national booking service.

Anyone not wanting to travel can wait to be contacted by their GP-led vaccination service or hospital.

Some 641,000 invitations were sent out to last week and another 380,000 were due to land on people’s doormats this weekend.

Another half a million letters will go out this week, NHS England said.

NHS England said the new centres would be able to administer “thousands” of jabs a week, scaling operations up and down according to vaccine supplies.

It will also mean at least one centre is located in each health region and ensures that rural parts of the country like Boston in Lincolnshire and Norwich are within reach of one.

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said the NHS vaccination programme had got off to a “strong start” with more than 3 million vaccinated, including “more than a third of those aged 80 or over”.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), around 45 per cent of those aged 80 and over have been vaccinated.

Marion Teulon, 67, a nurse at the new Blackburn Cathedral site, urged people not to arrive early for appointments.

“I know how eager people are to be protected and while it is important that people turn up on time, the last thing we want is people waiting unnecessarily in the cold so people should avoid arriving early and stick to their allocated slot,” she said.

The government is said to be hopeful that every adult in the UK will have received their first vaccine dose by July as the inoculation drive gathers pace.

Whitehall sources told The Sunday Telegraph two further vaccines in the pipeline, produced by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, could accelerate the rollout sufficiently for every over-18 to have been given by jab by the end of June.

Meanwhile, the public is being urged to continue practising social distancing and following coronavirus-related government guidance.

DHSC said people could back “the national effort” by committing to the government’s pledges request.

The department said they can “help out” through supporting family and friends to attend vaccine appointments or becoming an NHS volunteer responder, and “join up” to Covid-19 treatment clinical trials.

People can also help others “stay informed” by sharing accurate NHS advice and being alert for Covid vaccine scams.

Mr Hancock said: “Throughout this pandemic, I have been in awe of how much the British public has contributed to the fight against the virus. I want to thank everyone for the time, effort and patience they have put in to keep themselves and others safe.

“We recognise that so many people want to support our NHS so health and care workers can continue to save lives, and now is your chance to get involved by helping the remaining people aged 80 and over get their jabs.

“I urge everyone, no matter who you are, what you do or where you’re from, to come forward and take on our three pledges.

“Everyone has a part to play in this national effort – to protect our NHS, our loved ones and other people’s loved ones too.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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