COVID-19: Hundreds of new vaccination sites for launch of Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine

·3-min read

Hundreds of new vaccination sites are expected to be up and running this week as the NHS expands its coronavirus immunisation programme.

Some 530,000 doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine will be available across the UK from Monday.

At first, only a small number of hospitals will distribute the COVID-19 vaccine but after a few days, most of the doses will be sent to hundreds of GP-led services.

There are already more than 700 of these sites, according to NHS England, but hundreds more at hospitals and led by GPs are due to launch this week.

One of the first hospitals to get the Oxford vaccine on Saturday morning was the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, part of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Dr George Findlay, chief medical officer and deputy chief executive at the trust, said: "We started vaccinating on our other hospital site a few weeks ago. It has been seen as a really positive step, something that gives staff more confidence to come to work.

"You only have to look at the statistics over the last 10 months about how many staff have suffered illness, or sadly lost their lives.

"This gives staff the confidence to come to work to be able to look after patients."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We know there are challenges still ahead of us over the coming weeks and months, but I'm confident this is the year we will defeat coronavirus and start building back better."

It comes around a month after the approval of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which has so far been given to more than one million people in the UK.

Second doses will take place within 12 weeks of the first - rather than the 21 days initially planned - in an effort to maximise coverage and expand the number of people getting the first vaccination.

England's deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam defended the government's change in guidance.

He told the Mail on Sunday: "The evidence clearly shows vaccinated individuals get almost complete protection after the first dose. Simply put, every time we vaccinate someone a second time, we are not vaccinating someone else for the first time.

"It means we are missing an opportunity to greatly reduce the chances of the most vulnerable people getting severely ill from COVID-19."

On Saturday, the UK recorded another 57,725 coronavirus cases - its highest daily total. Also, 445 people died within 28 days of testing positive.

Meanwhile, Public Health England (PHE) has said it does not recommend mixing coronavirus vaccines from different suppliers amid fears over the possible shortages.

Both the Oxford vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine require two doses.

The UK government had issued guidance telling NHS medics that if a person who has received their first coronavirus jab goes back for their second but the same type is not available, or the first vaccine type is unknown, then it is "reasonable" to offer a dose of another vaccine.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at PHE, has since told Sky News that mixing is not recommended and should only happen on "rare occasions".