Vaccine super-hubs to open as Government accelerates Covid-19 fightback
The new vaccination centre at Millenium Point, Birmingham (Image: Adam Hughes / SWNS)
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Vaccine super-hubs will finally open across the country this week as the fightback against the Covid virus accelerates.
Hundreds of thousands of over-80s are being invited to book a jab at one of seven major centres capable of inoculating up to four people every minute.
Boris Johnson will visit one of the big vaccine hubs today as they start jabbing thousands more people.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock promised that every adult in the UK will be offered a coronavirus vaccine by the autumn.
More than 200,000 vaccines a day are being administered and the country is on course to deliver two million jabs a week, he said.
The Government is in a race against time against the virus as NHS hospitals in some parts of the country are days from being overwhelmed by the deadly disease.
England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty has warned the NHS faces the “most dangerous situation” in living memory with record deaths and hospital admissions.
“Hospitals are always busy in winter, but the NHS in some parts of the country is currently facing the most dangerous situation anyone can remember,” he said.
“If the virus continues on this trajectory, hospitals will be in real difficulties, and soon.
“Staff-to-patient ratios – already stretched – will become unacceptable even in intensive care.”
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The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital is at a record high in England, while the official coronavirus death toll for the UK passed 80,000 on Saturday.
The ambulance service is also facing “unprecedented pressure” as it continues to struggle with the increasing demand this winter.
Tracy Nicholls, chief executive of College of Paramedics, said ambulances are waiting up to nine hours to offload patients at London hospitals.
Another 573 people died from Covid yesterday, the highest number on a Sunday for seven months.
The UK also recorded another 54,940 coronavirus cases, taking the total to 3,072,349, the fifth highest number of cases in the world.
But the Government is focusing on the vaccination drive to curb the spread of the virus and start lifting the country out of lockdown.
Mr Hancock told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “The good news is that over the last week we’ve vaccinated more people than in the whole of December.”
But he admitted that vaccines would have to be given to people in their 40s and 50s – as well as the highest priority patients – to be effective.
These are not expected to happen until later this year, possibly early summer.
Workers put up signs for the Vaccination Centre at Millenium Point, Birmingham
(Image: Adam Hughes / SWNS)
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The Health Secretary said the Government was on course to reach its target of 15 million people vaccinated by mid-February.
“Yes we’re on course,” he said. “The rate limiting factor at the moment is supply but that’s increasing.
“I’m very glad to say that at the moment we’re running at over 200,000 people being vaccinated every day.
“We’ve now vaccinated around one third of the over-80s in this country so we’re making significant progress.
“But there’s still further expansion to go.”
The vaccination centres are an alternative to GP and hospital services, which also provide the jabs.
Nurses, doctors, physios and other NHS staff are also getting them at the centres, along with social care and care home workers.
The Government has promised that all care home residents will have their jab by the end of January.
There could be annual Covid vaccinations in future like there are with the flu, although scientists say they might only be needed every few years.
The vaccine roll-out has, so far, been one of the few success stories in the Government’s handling of the pandemic with two million people already inoculated.
Boris Johnson will visit one of the hubs
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Prof Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said the vaccine roll-out has already prevented thousands of hospital admissions.
The professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol said the committee would draw up a plan by the middle of February for who gets the jab next.
“There are broader considerations when it comes to people with different occupations and the relative importance of them in society,” he said.
Buckingham Palace revealed the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh had received their Covid-19 vaccinations on Saturday.
But uncertainties remain – including over vaccine supply which led to a switch in policy with the public getting just the first dose initially.
Government scientists have been studying whether the vaccines work on new mutations of the disease.
Prof Peter Horby, chair of the government’s NERVTAG advisory committee, said that “so far” the data was encouraging.
But he warned the virus “will not go away” even as vaccinations take place.
“We’re going to have to live with it but that may change significantly,” he said.
“It may well become more of an endemic virus that’s with us all the time and may cause some seasonal pressures and some excess deaths, but is not causing the huge disruption that we’re seeing now.”
He said even after the elderly are vaccinated the virus will have to be managed with social distancing measures for months to come.