Boris Johnson wants to open 50 mass vaccination centres across the country within weeks to help hit his target of offering vaccines to nearly 14 million people by the middle of next month.
There are already around 700 vaccination sites across the country, with seven national centres opening this week to turbo-charge efforts to get jabs to millions of people and pull the UK out of a relentless cycle of lockdowns.
The hubs will be based in sports venues, conference centres and a science park in Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Stevenage, Bristol, Surrey and Newham in central London. They will be operated by NHS staff and volunteers.
But it is understood the Prime Minister wants more of the large centres across England, where capacity can be ramped up to tens of thousands per week.
Boris Johnson wants to open 50 mass vaccination centres across the country within weeks to help hit his target of offering vaccines to nearly 14 million people by the middle of next month
The ‘meg-hubs’ will be based in sports venues, conference centres and a science park in Newcastle (pictured), Manchester, Birmingham, Stevenage, Bristol, Surrey and Newham in central London
It is understood the Prime Minister wants more of the large centres across England, where capacity can be ramped up to tens of thousands per week
So far 1.5 million in priority groups have received one of the jabs, and in order to meet the target of 13.9 million people in priority groups by mid-February there needs to be at least two million vaccinations a week.
It is reported at least another 43 hubs are now being planned for areas with large populations.
A source told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘By mid-February there will be 50 [of them].’
It is a minimum requirement for any public immunisation centre to manage 1,000 weekly doses, and these centres will be some of the largest in the UK.
The expansion of the inoculation programme is being handled by Nadhim Zahawi MP, who Mr Johnson recently made the minister for Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment.
But The Times has claimed much of the planning for the rollout had already been done before the former-businessman was appointed to the role.
The expansion of the inoculation programme is being handled by Nadhim Zahawi MP, who Mr Johnson recently made the minister for Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment
Mr Zahawi’s role has since been dismissed by some as a redundant position to assuage backbench calls for a ‘minister for vaccines’.
One person involved in the rollout said: ‘I don’t think the success of the vaccine programme will depend on Nadhim Zahawi.’
Downing St had been worried about the relatively slow pace of the vaccinations across the country, with NHS boss Sir Simon Stevens said to be keeping ministers at ‘an arm’s length’ from distribution logistics.
Where are the mass vaccination centres going to be set up
ExCel Centre, London
Robertson House, Stevenage
Epsom Downs Racecourse, Surrey
Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol
Millennium Point, Birmingham
Etihad Tennis Centre, Manchester
Centre for Life, Newcastle
Elland Road Stadium, Leeds
Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens
Telford International Centre, Telford
Black Country Living Museum, Dudley
Navigation Walk, Wakefield
Jacob’s Well, Bradford
John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield
Senior government sources played down fears of glitches in the roll-out, saying that delivery of vaccines to the NHS had been ‘lumpy’.
One said: ‘This is a biological compound. It was always going to be lumpy. You get a delivery and they say “we have had a delay, can we do the batch in a week’s time”. And then the MHRA has to do inspections.’
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are running their own Covid vaccination programmes. Scotland will have enough Covid vaccine by the end of this month to vaccinate its top four priority groups, sources said.
Fears remain that the government may be overpromising how much can realistically be delivered, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning saying that every adult in the country will be offered a COVID-19 vaccine by the autumn.
More than 600,000 people age 80 and over will begin receiving invitations this week to get the coronavirus shot at new large-scale vaccine centers around England.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that officials were ‘on track’ to reach the 13.5 million target by the middle of February.
The vaccination drive comes as Britain sees a steep increase in infections and record numbers of COVID-19 patients being hospitalised, with many experts warning that the situation is more dire than it was when the country went into its first lockdown last spring.
Office of National Statistics figures last week estimated that 1 in 50 people in England had the virus.
Britain today suffered 563 coronavirus deaths – the third deadliest Sunday in the whole pandemic. Infections were recorded at 54,940, the thirteenth day in a row where the number was above 50,000.
Mr Hancock said that more than 200,000 people are being vaccinated in England every day, and that by autumn, the entire adult population should have been offered a jab.
‘We’ve got over 350 million doses on order – they’re not all here yet. We’re rolling them out as fast as they get delivered,’ he told the Andrew Marr show.
‘But we are going to have enough to be able to offer a vaccine to everyone over the age of 18 by the autumn.’
Tracy Nicholls, the chief executive of the College of Paramedics, said members have reported ambulances left lining up outside hospitals waiting for up to nine hours, unable to hand patients over to emergency rooms.
‘This year particularly has seen incredible pressure because of the clinical presentation of the patients our members are seeing. They are sicker,’ she said.
‘We are seeing the ambulance handover delays at a scale we haven’t seen before.’
England entered a third national lockdown in the beginning of January, which closed all nonessential shops, schools, colleges and universities for at least six weeks.
Regulators the MHRA authorised the Moderna vaccine this week, making it the third to be licensed for use after Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccines.
Trials suggest that the Moderna jab is 94.5 per cent effective in preventing symptoms and that it works in older people.
The government said yesterday that it had increased its order by 10 million doses to 17 million. Each person requires two shots.
However while batches of the other two are already being sent out to vaccination centres, the Moderna jab will not be available until the autumn, after waiting for trial data before making a commitment.
The United States and the European Union are ahead in the queue for the shot.