First Covid vaccine super-hubs open with UK ‘at worst point’ of pandemic

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The first mass Covid-19 vaccination centre has been opened in the UK as cases soar around the country.

Cars have been pictured turning up to the NHS mass vaccination centre that has been set up in the grounds of Epsom Race Course in Surrey.

The push to vaccinate the UK against Covid-19 reaches a new level today as several mass injection centres are due to open amid dire warnings in all four nations over high levels of infection and struggling hospital systems.

Ashton Gate football stadium 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 will offer jabs to people aged 80 and older, along with health and care staff.

The Covid 19 vaccination hub at the Epsom Racecourse in Surrey
(Image: Stephen Lock / i-Images)

Staff make preparations ahead of the opening of the NHS mass vaccination centre that has been set up in the grounds of Epsom Race Course in Surrey
(Image: PA)

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These centres 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 of sites to around 1,200.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will today set out the Government's new plan for delivering vaccines, which it is hailing as the "keystone of our exit out of the pandemic".

The first 130,000 invitations asking the elderly to sign up for a jab at the centres were due to arrive over the weekend, with more than 500,000 to follow over the next seven days. 

Moira Edwards is the first to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS vaccine centre in Surrey
(Image: PA)

Members of staff erect signs outside the NHS vaccine centre that has been set up at the Life Science Centre International Centre for Life in Newcastle
(Image: PA)

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The letters have been sent to people aged 80 or older who live between a 30 to 45-minute drive from one of seven new regional centres, with information about how they can book a slot either over the phone or via an online national booking service.

Moira Edwards, 88, became the first person to receive a coronavirus jab at Epsom racecourse in Surrey.

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

The first patient to receive his Oxford/AstraZeneca jab at Newcastle's mass vaccination centre at the Centre for Life was 81-year-old Nana Kwabena Edusie.

Mr Nana Kwabena Edusie, aged 81 from Heaton, receives his coronavirus vaccination
(Image: Getty Images)

The NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre opens today at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate football stadium
(Image: Rowan Griffiths)

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Originally from Ghana, Mr Edusie has been in the UK for 55 years and lives in the Heaton area of the city.

The Government has set a target of having 15 million people vaccinated by mid-February, with every adult in the UK vaccinated by autumn.

Nadhim Zahawi, the minister in charge of vaccine deployment, said that most people currently had "about a 45-minute drive" or less to a vaccination centre, but his aim was that no-one in the UK was "more than a 10-mile radius".

The NHS vaccine centre that has been set up at the Centre for Life in Times Square, Newcastle
(Image: PA)

Staff making preparations ahead of the opening of an NHS mass vaccination centre
(Image: PA)

Mr Zahawi told Times Radio that he wanted to reach the point where people could simply walk into their community pharmacy or local GP to receive a vaccine.

He said that 15 million people will be told a vaccine is ready for them by mid-February.

He told Sky News: "The top four categories, actually, for the UK is 15 million people, in England it's about 12 million people, so we will have offered a vaccination to all of those people."

Pressed on the difference between being offered a jab and being vaccinated, he said: "When you offer a vaccination it doesn't mean a Royal Mail letter, it means the vaccine and the needle and the jab are ready for you.

"What you will see us publishing is the total numbers of people being vaccinated, not being offered a vaccine, and that's the number to hold us to account to."

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