Beginning of the end as vaccine centres open – how day 1 unfolded across country
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Britain today launched its biggest bid to end Covid-19 as seven mass vaccination centres opened their doors to thousands.
Patients queued outside some of the seven sites in England where nurses and military personnel prepared to give them their long-awaited jabs.
The atmosphere was upbeat, with most people hoping that having their injections means they will soon be able to leave lockdown behind and be reunited with loved ones.
The centres are at Ashton Gate football stadium in Bristol, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, Newcastle’s Centre for Life, the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, Robertson House in Stevenage, Birmingham’s Millennium Point and London’s Excel Centre, which is also home to the capital’s flagship Nightingale hospital.
All the sites are currently offering vaccinations to the over-80s along with health and care staff.
Do you know when you will be getting the vaccine? Let us know in the comments section
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A 200-metre line of care workers, ambulance crew, paramedics and frontline NHS heroes formed at Newcastle’s centre where two vaccination “pods’” dealt with four patients every five minutes.
One of the first to be vaccinated there was Brenda Clayton, 67, a bereavement support coordinator for the city’s St Oswald’s Hospice.
She said having the vaccine meant she would be able to help patients – including hundreds of children – left without loved ones. She added: “There is that hope now that, if you get the virus, maybe it won’t kill you.”
Boris Johnson was at the Bristol mass vaccination site when former West Bromwich Albion goalie Terrence Wilkinson, 84, had his jab.
He praised the “underpaid” NHS staff but was not so impressed with the PM.
Moira Edwards receives an injection of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine
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Terrence said: “He is not one of my favourite people. As far as I’m concerned he’s got a lot to answer for.“ He added: “People should get the jab done. We’ve got to do our bit to help, otherwise God knows what will happen.
“I’ll still keep my distance. You’ve got to – you’ve got to be sensible.
“When I see people abusing it, that’s not playing the game. That’s not helping health workers. They’re the people going through hell.”
Husband and wife John and Hazel Watson, spoke to the PM after they had their jabs.
John, 81, said the Tory leader asked them “general questions” about their vaccination experience.
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He added: “The organisation here has been fantastic. As soon as you pull up you’re looked after and brought to each station so quickly.”
Hazel, 82, said: “It was just really exciting – a great relief to feel that we now have some protection against this virus.
“It’s been quite worrying, we do feel quite vulnerable.”
The Government has set a target of having 15 million people vaccinated by mid-February, with every adult in the UK vaccinated by autumn.
Later this week the mass vaccination centres will be joined 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.
The south stand of Bristol City’s stadium got off to a slow start today but by the end of the day several hundred people had begun their vaccination process.
One of the first was mum-of-two Irene Reynolds, 80.
People stand in line as Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a Covid-19 vaccination centre at Ashton Stadium in Bristol
The retired office worker, from Weston-super-Mare said she was surprised it wasn’t busier.
She said: “I am surprised at how quiet it was to be honest, I thought there would be queues and queues.
“But it was a great experience, everyone was pleasant, they told you where to go and what to do at all times, it went well.
“It was really well thought out and really well done though.
“I got the letter on Saturday morning, rang the number, got the appointment and here I am.
“I was surprised I got the appointment so quickly and yeah I had to travel a little bit but it is all for our own good isn’t it?
“The great thing is I feel really reassured now.
“I am also the first one to get it out of my friends so that’s good, they are all in their 70s, so they won’t be too far behind me.”
The Bristol site is aiming to vaccinate 10,000 people a week or roughly 1,400 per day.
People wait to receive their Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS vaccine centre that has been set up at Robertson House in Stevenage, Hertfordshire
A man of 87 took his 85-year-old wife to be vaccinated at Stevenage but was not allowed the jab himself. Rhoda Gluck’s GP told her she could have to the jab but not husband Tony.
They were among dozens patiently queued in the cold at the Robertson House vaccination centre in Stevenage, Herts. Tony, of Radlett, Herts, said: “It doesn’t seem fair.”
Keith Garwood, 80, of Ampthill, Beds, said: “It’s the first time in my life where we’ve had something which has had so much impact on your life. You must have it [the jab].”
Moira Edwards, 88, became the first person to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab at the famous Epsom racecourse in Surrey at 8.15am.
Ms Edwards, from Cobham, Surrey, who received her first dose beside her daughter Clare Edwards, said it was “extremely important” to get the vaccine.
Members of the public who are about to receive an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine speak with a staff member at a NHS mass coronavirus vaccination centre at Epsom Race Course in Surrey
She said: “I had no hesitation at coming forward for my vaccination when it was offered to me. I have quite a large family, who all live near me, and feel it is extremely important to protect myself and them.
“Having this vaccine makes it a step closer to being with my family again and giving them a big hug.”
Marjory Broughton wasn’t so happy though. She tweeted: “Sitting in a queue for vaccination of covid at Epsom racecourse. It’s hopeless. Nobody knows how long the wait is and we are going tobe late for our appointment.
"Volunteers say they know nothing. What a horlicks.”
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said the site planned to vaccinate at least 500 people today and would be “ramping it up in the coming days”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock visited the venue as the vaccinations started to be rolled out.
People queuing to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS Nightingale facility at the Excel Centre, London
The NHS Nightingale London hub opened with the elderly and health workers the first to get vaccinations.
People queued outside the east London site from early this morning as nurses prepared to innoculate hundreds at socially-distanced tables or cubicles.
Peter Ramsay, 83, who had come from Dagenham, East London, said: “It was very smooth, very well-organised inside. No problems whatsoever. It was a relief to finally get it.”
Large blue information screens were in place to ensure patients knew what to do. One of the signs read: “The independent regulator, the MHRA, would not approve a vaccine that has not been tested and found to be safe.”
It could not have come at a better time after figures showed one in 20 people have Covid in some boroughs.
At the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre a steady stream of pensioners braved the cold, rain and wind to get their jabs.
Veronica Lloyd, 85 from nearby Newton Heath in Manchester said: “I’m really pleased to have had it done. It is far too dangerous now not to have the vaccination.
“It took half a second to have the jab and I never felt a thing” she said.
Veronica Lloyd, 85 and her brother-in-law Rodney Brown, at the Manchester's COVID-19 vaccination centre at the Tennis and Football Centre Etihad Campus
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)
Veronica, who needs a walking stick to get around, had been brought to the centre in the shadow of Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium by her brother-in-law Rodney Brown, 67.
Anthony Heard, 85, had driven 20 miles from Macclesfield in Cheshire to get his jab. But he said it was well worth the journey.
“It went very well. I feel a great sense of relief” he said.
Sheila Kay, 83, from Timperley, had received a letter last Saturday telling her to book an appointment.
She said: “Everybody was very nice and helpful. I was very impressed. I’ll be back here for my second injection.”
George Lister, 82, from Altrincham, said: “It was very efficient. Very well organised. There were plenty of staff on hand. I’m very relieved to have had it.”
Noel Stringfellow, 86, from Whitefield, said: “I did not feel a thing. All the staff were excellent. Very pleasant and helpful.
“I’m really pleased to have had it. I’ll be happy when everybody has had it and we can all get back to a normal life.”
People queue outside the Centre for Life vaccination hub, in Newcastle
Care workers, paramedics, ambulance crews and charity staff stood two metres apart in the 200m long queue for jabs at Newcastle’s Centre for Life.
The Mirror saw a hive of activity inside as two vaccination ‘pods’ dealt with four patients every five minutes. North-east vaccine chief Prof Neil Watson hailed the ‘huge gear change’ in the fight against the virus. “The hope that we can offer now is that our lives will go back to normal in time,” he said.
Great grandad Nana Kwabena Edusei, 81, a former chief in his native Ghana, was ‘No 1’ in the queue. The retired bakery manager from Newcastle urged other people his age to be vaccinated, saying: “I’m going to tell all my friends that it’s a good thing to have done.”
A healthcare worker receives the vaccine at the Centre for Life vaccination hub
Retired factory worker Jimmy Charlton, 80, of Newcastle, felt relieved, and privileged. “I will be able to get some fresh air now,”
he said. “I would say get it done – no messing about.”
His son Michael, 49, a care worker, was also vaccinated.
Brenda Clayton, 67, helps the bereaved, including children, cope with the loss of loved ones at the St Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle.
The jab was vital for her as she has asthma. Daughter Beverley, 42,
lives in the US and son David, 37, is in New Zealand. She is longing to hug grandchildren Oliver, 12, Lucy, 10, and Arthur, two. “It is just amazing,” said Brenda, of Whitley Bay, North Tyneside.
The Covid vaccination centre at Millennium Point in Birmingham opens today with Ken Hughes receiving the vaccine
The Millennium Point vaccination centre in Birmingham is aiming to vaccinate more than 2,500 people per day once it gets up to speed.
Dr Peter Ingham, a retired GP now working on the Covid vaccination rollout in the Midlands, said: “We’ve offered appointments today and about 80% are over-80s, and 20% are healthcare staff.
“Hopefully by next week it will be well over 2,500 people a day – but we want to increase that.
“If we can stand it up even further, then we want to push that.
“People cannot wait to get it and we are fully booked for the appointments that we have released at the centre.”
One of those vaccinated yesterday (Mon) was Selina Wilson, 46, from Redditch, Worcestershire.
She is a senior occupational therapist at Moseley Hall Hospital, Birmingham, said after being vaccinated said: “It feels great – I feel absolutely fine.” Ms Wilson said she has four grandchildren who she is now hoping to see more of – but for now, she was heading straight back to work.
“We’re under pressure because I have a few colleagues off as well, so it’ll be back to work after this.”