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COVID-19: GPs join biggest vaccination programme in NHS history

Written by on 7 January 2021

GP surgeries in England are to begin rolling out the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus jab as part of the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history.

It comes just a day after the UK daily reported death toll topped 1,000 for the first time since 21 April with a further 1,041 people dying with the virus.

Record numbers are also currently in hospital with coronavirus, with a further 3,500 admitted in England on Monday 4 January.

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Boris Johnson, who was given the overwhelming backing of MPs for the latest lockdown, warned that there was now a race between the spread of the virus and the delivery of vaccines to the most vulnerable.

The House of Commons, recalled from its Christmas break to vote on the lockdown restrictions on Wednesday, voted with a 508 majority for the measures, which could be in place until the end of March.

“After the marathon of last year we are indeed now in a sprint, a race to vaccinate the vulnerable faster than the virus can reach them,” the prime minister told MPs.

“Every needle in every arm makes a difference.”

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It is hoped that more than 700 sites will be delivering vaccines by the end of the week, with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab easier to administer given it can be stored at fridge temperatures, unlike the Pfizer jab which requires storage at minus 70C.

Seven mass vaccination centres will open next week in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said: “The biggest vaccination programme in NHS history is already off to a strong start with around one million people already vaccinated against coronavirus – this is a credit to our exceptional NHS staff.

“GPs, nurses, pharmacists and countless other staff and volunteers have been working around the clock to be able to launch almost 200 more sites this week.

“Combined with the arrival of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, we will now be able to protect many more vulnerable people against the virus and faster.

The government has said it wants 14 million people vaccinated within six weeks
Image:
The government has said it wants 13 million people vaccinated within six weeks

Meanwhile, the NHS is offering GP services an extra GBP10 for every care home resident vaccinated in January in a drive to get a majority vaccinated before the end of the month.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Every part of the government and the NHS are working around the clock to rapidly scale up our COVID-19 vaccination programme so we can protect those most at risk from this awful disease as quickly as possible.

“We are aiming to offer vaccinations to the majority of care home residents by the end of January and all 13 million people in the top four priority cohorts by mid-February. This will ensure the most vulnerable are protected and will save tens of thousands of lives.

“As our vaccination programme ramps up, I urge everybody to continue following the latest restrictions to keep cases low and protect loved ones.”

Health officials stressed that patients will be contacted when their appointment is due.