All over-50s set to be offered coronavirus vaccination by end of April, NHS says
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All over-50s should be offered a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of April, it was promised last night.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said officials were engaged in a "sprint" to extend the jab to all the priority groups who want it.
After the end of April, he said, there would be a "marathon" to extend the jab to healthy under-50s through summer and autumn.
Sir Simon made the comments as a formal vaccine plan gave more details about how, when and where the vaccine is rolled out.
There will be two phases in three parts – which to explain better we'll call Phase 1a, Phase 1b and Phase 2.
15 million people in the first wave ("1a") – over-70s, shielders, NHS and care frontline staff, and elderly care home residents and their carers – have been promised a first dose by February 15.
Then it'll be the turn of the other five priority groups in the first phase ("1b"). They number 17million people, including all over-50s and further "at risk" under-50s who weren't vulnerable enough to shield.
People waiting their turn at a mass vaccination centre in Birmingham
(Image: Getty Images)
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After that, the NHS will begin the rollout to the second phase ("2")- which is 21million healthy adults under 50.
Yesterday's plan confirmed that finishing Phase "1b" will "likely take until Spring". But Sir Simon added more detail, saying it would be the end of April.
He told MPs: "This is a sprint to mid-February, and then it will be a sprint from mid-February through to the end of April to extend the vaccination to the rest of the higher risk groups.
"Then it will be a marathon from April through the summer into the autumn… where we are offering everybody in the country who wants it, over the age of 18 for whom the vaccines are authorised, that jab."
In total there are 53million UK adults who will be offered a vaccine.
The NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre opens yesterday at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate football stadium
(Image: Rowan Griffiths)
However, people will only be offered their second dose, which completes the vaccine's protection, around 12 weeks after their first following a change of government policy.
Last night's plan officially pledged to set up 50 mass vaccination centres in England by January 31 in a bid to immunise 2million a week.
Currently there are seven of the centres open in Bristol, London, Manchester, Birmingham, Surrey, Newcastle and Stevenage.
But the 47-page Covid-19 vaccine "delivery plan" pledges to increase that number to 50 in England by the end of January.
The centres will be based in football stadiums, conference centres, hotels, theatres and similar venues and be accessed by a national booking system.
The locations of the other 43 mass centres haven't yet been revealed, and nor have exact dates when they'll be set up.
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There will also be 206 hospital hubs and 1,200 local vaccine sites, including GPs and some – but not all – community pharmacies.
The plan pledges to give "at least" 2million people per week a dose of vaccine by January 31.
It also promises that every adult in the UK "can be vaccinated by the Autumn".
While there is not an exact date, this goes further than Matt Hancock, who said on Sunday they would be "offered" a vaccine by then.
Boris Johnson has promised to extend the jab to every adult by the Autumn
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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There is no specific priority in the plan for teachers, but reports have suggested they could be bumped to the top of the "phase two" list.
There are questions around how easy it will be for people to travel to the mass vaccination centres.
Hundreds of thousands of pensioners were urged to drive for up to 90 minutes as a round trip to get the Covid-19 vaccine, including at seven new ‘super’-centres.
Around 600,000 letters have been sent out to people 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.
The plan says currently 96% of people in England are within 10 miles of a vaccination centre. This will rise to everyone by the end of January – but for some people it will include a "mobile" vaccination service.
Downing Street also rebuffed calls for a 24-hour vaccine programme for now – saying “there’s not a clamour for appointments late into the night”.
However, the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, Allegra Stratton, did not rule out bringing in round-the-clock vaccinations in future if the situation changed. And the plan says the 50 mass centres can have "extended hours".