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The NHS is opening its newest front in the fight against COVID-19 with the activation of the first seven NHS Vaccination Centres to jab people aged 80 and over, along with health and care staff, from today.
The seven large-scale sites, capable of delivering thousands of the life-saving jabs each week, will be followed by dozens more.
Hundreds more GP-led and hospital services are also due to open this week along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total to around 1,200.
The new large-scale NHS Vaccination Centres – including one on the site of the London Nightingale Hospital, Bristol’s Ashton Gate stadium and Manchester’s Etihad tennis club – offer a convenient alternative to GP-led and hospital services.
Letters are being sent out to more than 600,000 people aged 80 who live up to a 45 minute drive from one of the new centres, inviting them to book an appointment.
The centres are an additional option for people, who can book an appointment at one of the seven centres through the national booking service online or over the phone. If it is not convenient for them, they can instead be jabbed at one of their local vaccination centres in the coming weeks.
People should wait until they are invited and should not call their GP but use the booking line. If an appointment has already been offered by the GP, people can choose which appointment suits them best.
As well as offering additional options for the over-80s, the NHS Vaccine Centres will also help in the NHS’s drive to protect its own frontline staff as well as social care workers providing vital support in communities.
The new services will also be the first to deploy trained volunteers from both St John Ambulance and the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme alongside NHS staff, more than 80,000 of who have completed the clinical training needed to administer vaccines so far.
The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in the health service’s history, is being delivered as health service staff are treating record numbers of seriously ill patients with COVID, caused by rapidly rising infection numbers.
Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS’s national medical director, said: “Increasing supplies means the NHS can open even more vaccination services and protect even more people this week.
“While my NHS colleagues are working hard to ensure we can offer vaccines to all of those who would benefit most over the next month, at the same time as providing care for everyone who needs it, we need the public to help us.
“Please don’t contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, we will contact you. When we do contact you, please attend your booked appointments. And whether you have had a vaccine or not, please continue to follow all the guidance to control the virus and save lives – that means staying at home as much as you can, and following the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance when you can’t.”
The seven Vaccination Centres opening this week are:
- Excel Centre in London (London)
- Ashton Gate in Bristol (South West)
- Epsom racecourse in Surrey (South East)
- Millennium Point in Birmingham (Midlands)
- Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England)
- Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester (North West)
- The Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne (North East and Yorkshire)
The initial sites were chosen from those ready to vaccinate large numbers of people quickly to give a geographical spread covering as many people as possible.
Invites to book at the centres are being sent to people aged 80 or over who have not yet been vaccinated and live up to 30 to 45 minutes’ drive from one of the seven new sites.
The letters will explain how they can book a slot over the phone or online through the national booking service, and NHS leaders are urging people not to turn up at the centres or try to book without receiving them.
The new vaccine centres will each be capable of delivering thousands of vaccinations each week, scaling their operations up and down according to vaccine supplies and demand.
People who book in to a vaccine centre will be greeted by volunteers who will marshal carparks and register them when they arrive. Bookings are staggered to allow social distancing.
They will receive a health status check and a pre-vaccination assessment before they receive their vaccine from a trained vaccinator, and then be observed for 15 minutes. The process should take well under an hour.
There are already almost 1,000 vaccination sites across the country.
The vast majority, almost 800, are GP-led services and they are expected to deliver most of the vaccinations.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Through our vaccine delivery plan around two million people have already received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines and these new large scale vaccination centres will help us accelerate the rollout even further.
“Alongside GPs, pharmacies, hospitals and care homes the new sites will offer vaccines to everyone in the top four priority cohorts, saving thousands of lives and helping us start to return to normal in the future.”