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More than one million people aged 80 or over have been invited to book a coronavirus jab at a Vaccination Centre, as the NHS accelerates the immunisation programme, the biggest in health service history.
Ten new large-scale centres, including a rugby ground, racecourse, food court and a cathedral, will open this week, joining the seven already delivering the life-saving jab.
There are now also 1,000 GP-led services and more than 250 hospitals offering coronavirus vaccinations, with dozens of new high street pharmacies stores also jabbing people by the end of this week.
Vaccination centres offer a convenient option for those who do not want to wait to be contacted by GPs or hospitals.
People aged 80 or over living up to a 45-minute drive from the 17 centres are being written to with the option of choosing to arrange a vaccination there or at a pharmacy site through the new national booking service.
Alternatively people can choose to wait to be contacted shortly by their local GP-led vaccination service.
The NHS sent out 641,000 invitations last week and another 380,000 are landing on doormats this weekend. Another half a million will go out this week.
Appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people who do book one are being asked not to turn up early to avoid creating queues.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in NHS history, is off to a strong start with more than three million people receiving the life-saving jab, including more than a third of those aged 80 or over.
“We are adding more sites as more vaccine supplies become available, so that people can chose a convenient option, with around a million invites sent over the last week for those aged 80 and over.
“Having worked alongside clinicians at my local hospital I know how tough it is for our staff treating an increasing number of seriously ill people with COVID-19 – so I cannot stress enough how important it is that everyone plays their part by practicing social distancing and following the national guidance.”
The 10 new sites opening from Monday (18 January) are:
- Bournemouth International Centre
- Taunton Racecourse
- Blackburn Cathedral
- Salt Hill Activity Centre, Slough
- Norwich Foodcourt
- The Lodge, Wickford, Essex
- Princess Royal Sports Arena, Lincolnshire
- St Helens Rugby Ground
- Park and ride at Askham Bar, York
- Network House, Wembley, London
Each centre will be capable of delivering thousands of jabs each week but scaling up and down according to vaccine supplies.
The 10 new centres mean there will be at least one in each health region and help to ensure that people are within reach of a jabbing service, including more rural parts of the country like Boston and Norwich.
Anyone who cannot or does not want to travel can wait to be vaccinated by their local GP service or hospital.
Nobody needs to contact the NHS, they will be invited when it is their turn and people cannot get vaccinated by just turning up.
The invitations to attend are being issued to people aged 80 or over who are not listed as having been vaccinated at a hospital or GP service.
If they have received a jab since the letter was sent out or would prefer to wait to be invited to attend a hospital or GP service, they can simply ignore it.
Those like care home residents who are unable to travel to vaccine centres, hospitals or GP-led sites, are already being jabbed at home.
People who book into a vaccine centre will be greeted by volunteers who will marshal car parks 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 have their jab. The process should take well under an hour.
Marion Teulon, a nurse at the new Blackburn Cathedral site launching next week has urged the public not to arrive early for appointments to prevent people from having to wait in the cold and to make sure everyone is social distancing.
Marion Teulon, aged 67, who came out of retirement to help with the vaccine rollout, said: “It’s a real privilege to be able to play a role in the biggest NHS vaccination campaign in history and I would urge everyone receiving an invite through their letterbox over the next few days to come and get their life-saving COVID-19 jab.
“I know how eager people are to be protected and while it is important that people turn up on time, the last thing we want is people waiting unnecessarily in the cold so people should avoid arriving early and stick to their allocated slot.”
The NHS made history when Maggie Keenan became the first person in the world to be protected against coronavirus outside of a clinical trial when she received the Pfizer vaccine at Coventry Hospital on 8 December.
The NHS was also the first health system to deliver the new Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine when Brian Pinker, 82, was jabbed last Monday.
The four priority groups for receiving the vaccine were set by the government following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).