The government has 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 today’s 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.
There will also be 206 hospital hubs and 1,200 local vaccine sites, including GPs and some – but not all – community pharmacies.
Today’s 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 yesterday they would be “offered” a vaccine by then.
People in the top four priority groups – 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.
The plan says there are 15million people in the first four priority groups in the UK.
There are 17million in the next five priority groups, including all over-50s, and then 21million adults in the rest of the UK population who will be in “phase two”.
In total there are 53million UK adults who will be offered a vaccine.
There is no specific priority in today’s plan for teachers, but reports have suggested they could be bumped to the top of the “phase two” list.
The plan lacks specific dates but NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said all the top priority groups – including all over 50s – should be offered a first dose by “late Spring” in a “sprint”.
Healthy adults under 50 would follow “in the balance of the year” in a “marathon”, he told MPs.
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.
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.
Today’s 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 today’s plan says the 50 mass centres can have “extended hours”.
Daily vaccination statistics were due to be published from today, with Boris Johnson saying 2.4m jabs have been given in the UK.
However, the government was not due to publish statistics on the supply of vaccines into the country despite a bottleneck.
The plan published today says there is a “global shortage in fill-finish capacity” – which means putting the jab in vials – and it is a “potential bottleneck”.
The UK Vaccine Task Force has entered a deal with the firm Wockhardt to “secure capacity for the UK over the coming year”.
Today’s plan also reveals a victory for the Mirror’s bid to urge people to sign up as volunteers on the vaccine programme.
More than 200,000 people have expressed an interest in playing their part, the plan says.
Elsewhere, the plan says officials are “building upon and boosting” an existing study to check if the new UK variant of coronavirus has any effect on the vaccine’s effectiveness.
And people will be “proactively encouraged” to report any side effects from the jab to a special website: https://coronavirusyellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/.