No10 rebuffs 24-hour vaccine drive as there’s ‘not a clamour for late-night appointments’
Robert Williams, 84, waits to receieve an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at one of the new mass centres today (Image: PA)
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Downing Street has rebuffed calls for a 24-hour vaccine programme for now – because “there’s not a clamour for appointments late into the night”.
Keir Starmer today said there must be a “24 hours a day, seven days a week" vaccination programme in the “biggest peacetime project in our history”.
But the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, Allegra Stratton, said that wouldn’t be appropriate at the moment when most recipients are over 80 years old.
Critics also say there is not enough capacity in the system to give jabs round the clock.
However, she did not rule out a day-and-night vaccine programme in future stages.
Ms Stratton told journalists: “If you go and have a chat with the NHS, they will say that when they are asking the people who are being offered vaccinations, they’re asking them when it would suit them, what time.
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“If people come back and say they would like an appointment over 8pm then that is something they will consider.
“My understand is at the moment there’s not a clamour for appointments late into the night or early in the morning.
“If it was the case, then it is something the NHS could well consider.
“They are doing their absolute utmost to get the jab into people’s arms as quickly as possible.”
It came as hundreds of thousands of pensioners were urged to drive for up to 90 minutes to get the Covid-19 vaccine, including at seven new ‘super’-centres.
“If it was the case, then it is something the NHS could well consider," she added
Around 600,000 letters have been sent out to people aged over 80 within a 45 minute drive of the newly opened mass vaccination centres, suggesting they travel to get the jab.
That is despite a pledge to ensure everyone is within 10 miles of a vaccination centre.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman confirmed the letters had been sent – and said people could opt for an appointment closer to home, but may have to wait.
He said: “We want to ensure those who are the most clinically vulnerable receive a vaccination, and we’ve set up the mass vaccination centres to allow us to increase the amount of vaccines we give to people on a daily basis.
“The mass vaccination centres offer an immediate alternative to GPs [and] hospital services and letters have been sent out to more than 600,000 people aged 80 and above who live within a 45 minute drive of one of those vaccination centres.”
The seven new centres in England include Ashton Gate 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.
NHS England has said the centres were chosen to give a geographical spread covering as many people as possible.
They will each be capable of delivering thousands of jabs per week, scaling up and down according to vaccine supplies and demand.