Around 50 hospital hubs around England will start offering the Pfizer vaccine to patients and staff in care homes from next week, the chief executive of the NHS has announced.
Speaking at this evening’s Downing Street press conference, Simon Stephens said the NHS would also start sending letters out next week inviting vulnerable members of the population to go and get a vaccine from a designated hospital.
The Pfizer/Biontech vaccine, which comes in packs of 975 doses, will first be given to the most vulnerable Brits, going down the generational chart.
“In the subsequent weeks GP practices [will] come together in each area to operate local vaccination centres, and that will grow to over 1,000 places right across England,” Stephens added.
Stephens’ comments came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the “biological jiu jitsu” of the Pfizer/Biontech coronavirus vaccine, adding that it provided the “sure and certain” knowledge that the UK will return to normality by the spring.
“It is almost a year since humanity has been tormented by Covid,” said the PM. .
“All the time we’ve been waiting and hoping for the day where the searlights of science would pick out our invisible enemy… And today we can announce that the government has accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine”.
However, Johnson warned Britain not to take its foot off the pedal in tackling the pandemic, telling the public that the “immense logistical challenges” in distributing the vaccine underlined the necessity for current restrictions.
It comes after the UK recorded a further 648 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the official number of Covid fatalities since the start of the pandemic to 59,699.
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said he felt “very emotional” this morning at the “momentous journey” the world has experienced over the past year.
“Everyone needs to be delighted with the news today, but equally patient and realistic about how this rolls out over the next few months”, he said.
“The train has now stopped in the station and the doors have opened,” Van-Tam, who is no stranger to transport analogies, added. “This train is going to stop several times on the way. It’s going to have to reach all parts of the UK. There will be trains that come behind it, and it’s going to take time”.
Van-Tam also praised the determination and scientific ingenuity of Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, the Turkish-German couple behind Biontech.
However, he cautioned that while phase one of the vaccine rollout would likely stamp out 99 per cent of Covid deaths, the virus would be here to stay well into the future.
“I don’t think we’re going to eradicate coronavirus forever, it’s going to be with humankind forever,” he said.
Health secretary Matt Hancock earlier today announced he has given the green-light to 800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be rolled out from next week.
The government has spread its bets across 377m orders of seven different vaccines, including 40m doses of the Pfizer vaccine — enough to vaccinate 20m people in across Britain.
However, focus remains on the Astrzeneca/University of Oxford vaccine, which the UK has banked on by ordering 100m doses. The drugs company last week submitted its vaccine for approval to the MHRA, with a result expected in the next few days.