UK readies for virus vaccination program

The UK’s National Health Service staff will be working through the weekend to prepare for the launch of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program, with the first inoculations taking place from Tuesday.

There are 50 hubs in the first wave, with more hospitals starting to vaccinate over the coming weeks as the program ramps up.

Patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged after a hospital stay, will be among the first to receive the life-saving vaccine, health officials said.

Hospitals will also begin inviting over-80s in for a jab and work with care-home providers to book their staff in to vaccination clinics.

Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at the highest risk of serious illness from the virus.

All those vaccinated will need a booster jab 21 days later.

“This coming week will be a historic moment as we begin vaccination against COVID-19,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

“We are prioritising the most vulnerable first, and over-80s, care home staff and NHS colleagues will all be among the first to receive the vaccines.

“I urge everybody to play their part to suppress this virus and follow the local restrictions to protect the NHS while they carry out this crucial work.”

GPs and other primary care staff are being put on standby to start delivering the jab during the week beginning December 14, with more practices expected to join on a phased basis in the coming weeks.

Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients in sporting venues and conference centres will subsequently take part when further supplies of vaccine come on stream, officials said.

“Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday,” Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said.

“The first tranche of vaccine deliveries will be landing at hospitals by Monday in readiness.

“The NHS has a strong record of delivering large scale vaccination programs … hard-working staff will once again rise to the challenge to protect the most vulnerable people from this awful disease.”

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