High street pharmacies have begun rolling out Covid-19 vaccines, as the virus death toll across the UK climbed above 100,000.
Boots and Superdrug branches will be among the six stores across England which are able to administer the jabs from today while the Government aims to hit its target of vaccinating all people in the four most vulnerable groups by the middle of next month.
Robert Salt, 82, was the first person to receive the vaccine at Andrew’s Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire.
He said: “I think it’s wonderful actually.
“There was a little trepidation but it’s good, everything has gone fine today, apart from the weather.”
He said his wife was still waiting to get a vaccine appointment as she was under 80.
He said: “It’s a relief from a personal point of view but I’ve still got the responsibility because my wife’s at home and she could be a carrier.”
“This last week or two has been really scary with the death rates.
“I’m healthy but you know you’re in the age range where you’re very vulnerable.
“The situation with the death rates going up the way they have done is pretty frightening.”
The first six pharmacies to be delivering the vaccine are:
- Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield
- Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, north London
- Woodside Pharmacy in Telford
- Appleton Village pharmacy in Widnes
- Boots in Halifax
- Superdrug in Guildford
The specific branches have been picked because they can deliver large volumes of the vaccine and allow for social distancing.
Andrew Hodgson, director of Andrew’s Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire, which was in the first group of pharmacies to deliver Covid vaccines, said: “It is probably the biggest single day of my career.”
Hodgson, who has owned pharmacies in the area for more than 30 years, administered the first vaccine of the day at 8am and said 360 of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs were due to be delivered on Thursday.
He said: “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. We’ve set this up in three or four weeks from scratch.
“The whole team is very excited to be part of the rollout.
“It’s very important that as many people get vaccinated as possible and I just feel honoured to be part of that process so we can see the end of the pandemic.”
He said he knew four generations of some families who use the pharmacy.
He added: “I feel close to the people who are getting vaccinated and it is a personal experience for them.”
By the end of the month more than 200 community chemists will be able to give vaccines, according to NHS England.
The pharmacies join the 200 hospitals, around 800 GP clinics and seven mass vaccination centres where jabs are already being handed out.
Boots UK managing director Seb James said: “As we begin vaccinations at our Halifax pharmacy today, we are incredibly proud to support the NHS during this extraordinary time.
“Like Covid-19 testing, we believe Boots can play a key role in the vaccination programme – our pharmacists are experts in vaccination programmes and have a trusted role at the heart of our local communities.
“Pharmacies are extremely well placed to support the roll out of this vaccine quickly and safely, and we stand ready to do much more. We stand ready to do more to support the NHS and the government to accelerate its rollout.”
The expanded vaccination service in England comes as the daily reported UK death toll reached a new high on Wednesday, with 1,564 fatalities recorded within 28 days of a positive test.
The latest figures meant the grim milestone of more than 100,000 deaths involving coronavirus has now been passed in the UK, according to official data.
The Prime Minister warned hospital intensive care units (ICUs) face being overwhelmed unless coronavirus rates are brought under control, with the latest official figures showing more than 36,000 people are in hospital with coronavirus, including almost 3,500 on ventilation.
He told MPs: “If you ask me when do we think that the ICU capacity is likely to be overtopped, I can’t give you a prediction for that.
“But all I can say is that the risk is very substantial and we have to keep the pressure off the NHS and the only way to do that is to follow the current lockdown.”
Johnson told the Commons Liaison Committee that “the situation is very, very tough indeed in the NHS” and “the strain is colossal” on staff.
The Scottish Government published a 16-page document setting out how it intends to vaccinate 4.5 million people, including 400,000 a week from the end of February.
It set out the supply of vaccine from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna from the start of April that it expects to receive each week.
This angered ministers in London, with a senior Government source warning: “Publication of numbers like these risks suppliers coming under pressure from other countries.
“These vaccines are a finite resource and as we have said throughout – supply is the limiting step.”
Amid the warnings of struggling hospitals, the Government’s top scientist also warned the country is “in for a pretty grim period” of deaths which will not “reduce quickly”.
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told ITV’s Peston programme: “The daily numbers jump around a bit but I think we are in a position now – when you look at the number of infections we’ve had over the past few weeks and how this is likely to continue, so I don’t think they’re going to drop very quickly – that I’m afraid we’re in a period of high death numbers that’s going to carry on for some weeks.
“It’s not going to come down quickly even if the measures that are in place now start to reduce the infection numbers.
“So we’re in for a pretty grim period, I’m afraid.”
In his two-hour questioning from a committee of MPs, the Prime Minister also acknowledged concerns about a new strain of coronavirus from Brazil, but stopped short of promising a travel ban on the South American country.
“We already have tough measures … to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad,” he said.
“We are taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazilian variant.”
Meanwhile, a new study has found that Covid infection provides some immunity for at least five months, but people may still carry and transmit the virus.
The first report from Public Health England’s Siren study found that antibodies from past infection provide 83% protection against reinfection for at least five months.
This suggests that people who contracted the disease in the first wave may now be vulnerable to catching it again.