'Most risky time' of the pandemic, says Prof Whitty

Grant Boone
January 13, 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is pinning its hopes on a mass vaccination programme to offer a way out of the pandemic by the spring.

In a bid to get on top of the pandemic and to try to restore some degree of normality by the spring, the United Kingdom is rushing out its largest ever vaccination program, with shots to be offered to all those in its top four priority categories - about 15 million people - by the middle of next month.

Those in the four highest risk levels, including those over 70, the most clinically vulnerable and frontline health workers, will be offered the vaccines by February 15, he said.

The new centres - including at a football stadium and a tennis club - will be joined later this week by hundreds more GP-led and hospital services along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total to around 1,200, NHS England said.

The document says that "at least" 2 million vaccinations are expected to be administered in England on a weekly basis by the end of January, with all staff in care homes offered the vaccination before the start of February.

By the end of the month, everyone in England is to be within 10 miles of one of the vaccination sites, with a small number of "highly rural areas" having the vaccination brought to them by mobile teams. However, he cautioned there was concern about the spread of the virus in supermarkets and there was a need to ensure people wore masks while in them.

"It's been phenomenal to see our extensive preparations come to fruition and from tomorrow the public will also be able to see exactly how we will ensure they and their loved ones get the vaccine as quickly as possible".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock

The first phase of the rollout will focus on those at highest risk of severe illness and death. "And of course for the most efficient and the best use of our staff and volunteers, working through the day is the most efficient way of delivering the most vaccine".

"Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods in Greater Manchester and the opening of this vaccination centre represents a vital next step in the region's recovery from the pandemic and will enable us to deliver the vaccine at pace, protecting our local communities".

Vaccine centres will each be capable of delivering thousands of vaccinations each week, scaling their operations up and down according to vaccine supplies and demand. Last week, the MHRA also approved a third vaccine by Moderna.

"The UK vaccine delivery plan will be the keystone of our exit out of the pandemic, but we all must continue to play our part by staying at home, following the rules and keeping hands, face, space at the forefront of our minds when out and about".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Prof Whitty said: "I don't think we're yet at the peak, I'm afraid".

A few weeks later, the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca jab started to be distributed.

THE UK has already opened more than 1,000 vaccination sites across the country for the biggest vaccination programme in British history.

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