Not long after the UK approved use of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Margaret Keenan became the first patient to have the jab in this country, and the largest ever vaccination programme in the UK’s history had commenced.
It is a source of national pride that we are the first western nation to start a mass vaccination programme to beat coronavirus, while recognising the UK’s leading role in defeating this pandemic on a global level as well.
The NHS is working swiftly to put in place new delivery channels, including hospital hubs, which are tailored to the particular logistical requirements of the vaccine. Dozens of NHS trusts are acting as hubs where patients and staff can be vaccinated on site; locations which the NHS know the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be stored safely.
There are 50 hubs in the first wave and more hospitals will start vaccinating over the coming weeks and months as vaccine supply increases and the programme ramps up.
Local Vaccination Services including those which are community and primary care-led will vary based on local and logistical considerations but will include GP practices, local authority-sourced buildings or other local facilities and as vaccine supply increases in the New Year, local pharmacies. Last Thursday the Health & Social Care Secretary confirmed in the Downing Street press briefing that vaccinations are to begin in GP-led sites this week, with vaccinations in care homes by Christmas.
Our National Health Service will also establish Vaccination Centres where large numbers of people will be able to go and get a jab. The NHS have confirmed to me that most of these will open in the New Year when supply increases, in venues such as sports stadiums and concert arenas which offer the space to deal with large numbers of people while maintaining social distancing.
Most vaccinations for high-risk groups will take place between January and April. Among the first to receive the jab are patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay.
People will receive an invitation to come forward to get the jab. For most, this will be a letter, either from their GP or the NHS nationally. This letter will include all the information a person will need to book appointments, including their NHS number.
The NHS are asking people not to contact them to get the coronavirus vaccine until they have received this letter.
As we stand on the threshold of protecting people by getting this vaccine, my thanks to the NHS staff in Crawley and throughout the country who are going to make this happen.
Henry Smith MP