United Kingdom pins hope on vaccines to save medical system

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

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.

According to the data laid out by Hancock, the United Kingdom has already vaccinated 2.3 million people and is on track to vaccinate all people in priority categories, 15 million people, by the intended target of March.

As Britain gears up to rush out its largest vaccination programme with shots offered to more than 15 million people by mid-February, Johnson said, "It's a race against time because we can all see the threat that our NHS faces, the pressure it's under, the demand in intensive care units, the pressure on ventilated beds, even the shortage of oxygen in some places".

The expansion of the programme will also mean all adults will be offered a vaccine by the autumn.

For those in remote rural areas, the vaccine will be taken to them by mobile teams.

The government and the NHS have also mobilised a workforce of over 80,000 health professionals to help in the delivery of the programme across the different vaccination sites, with over 200,000 additional members of the public expressing their interest in helping with the non-clinical elements of the rollout such as administrative support, logistics, stewards and first aiders.

Hancock said the government wanted to vaccinate everyone in the remaining five of the nine priority groups drawn up by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) - everyone else over the age of 50, and people over 16 with serious underlying health conditions - by the spring.

The most risky time of the coronavirus pandemic in Britain is yet to come before vaccine rollout has an impact, Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty warned Monday.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock

"Our vaccine deployment plan sets out exactly how we will harness these efforts to expand the programme quickly and safely".

It's fantastic to see so many people stepping forward to help out, and I encourage businesses, wherever possible, to allow their staff time and scope to volunteer.

On Friday, London's mayor said the British capital's hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed by COVID patients, and ministers and health chiefs have pleaded with people to respect lockdown measures and stay at home unless it was essential to go out. In the Chancellor's Spending Review, published on 25 November, it was announced that the government has made more than £6 billion available to develop and procure successful vaccines.

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.

"Please don't contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, we will contact you".

"We are on track to meet that target - it's not going to be easy, but we are going to get there", he said.

The vaccination centre located at the Tennis and Football Centre - Etihad Campus in Manchester will be used in the first instance to vaccinate those who are 80 years old or over, if they haven't already been vaccinated by their local GP or hospital vaccine hub.

NHS England has confirmed that the first 130,000 letters inviting the over-80s to sign up for a jab at the seven mass-vaccinations centres have been sent.


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