(Photo: REUTERS/Russell Cheyne/Pool)

In the biggest vaccination drive in history, the first seven NHS vaccination centres have started to administer Covid-19 vaccines for people aged 80 and above, along with health and care staff including community pharmacists.

The seven large-scale sites which started their operations on Jan 11, will be followed by dozens more vaccination centres in coming weeks, according to government officials.

“Hundreds more GP-led and hospital services are also due to open this week along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total to around 1,200,” the NHS has said in an update on its Covid-19 vaccination drive.

The new large-scale centres – including one on the site of the London Nightingale Hospital, Bristol’s Ashton Gate stadium, and Manchester’s Etihad tennis club – offer an alternative to GP-led and hospital services.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “…Alongside GPs, pharmacies, hospitals and care homes the new sites will offer vaccines to everyone in the top four priority cohorts, saving thousands of lives and helping us start to return to normal in the future.”

Letters are being sent out to more than 600,000 people aged 80 who live up to a 45-minute drive from one of the new centres, inviting them to book an appointment.

“The centres are an additional option for people, who can book an appointment at one of the seven centres through the national booking service online or over the phone. If it is not convenient for them, they can instead be jabbed at one of their local vaccination centres in the coming weeks,” the NHS added.

“People should wait until they are invited and should not call their GP but use the booking line. If an appointment has already been offered by the GP, people can choose which appointment suits them best.”

The vaccine centres will also help in the NHS’s drive to protect its own frontline staff as well as social care workers by providing vital support in communities.

The new services will also be the first to deploy trained volunteers from both St John Ambulance and the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme alongside NHS staff, more than 80,000 of who have completed the clinical training needed to administer vaccines so far.

The list of seven sites includes…

  • Excel Centre in London (London)
  • Ashton Gate in Bristol (South West)
  • Epsom racecourse in Surrey (South East)
  • Millennium Point in Birmingham (Midlands)
  • Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England)
  • Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester (North West), and
  • The Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne (North East and Yorkshire)

There are already almost 1,000 vaccination sites across the country. The vast majority, almost 800, are GP-led services and they are expected to deliver most of the vaccinations.

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