The UK is ramping up its rollout of the coronavirus vaccine with a full plan set to be published this Monday.
The Army has been helping set up around 1,000 local vaccination centres at 775 GP-led centres, 207 hospitals and seven “super-vax” centres in stadiums and conference centres.
Boris Johnson has promised hundreds of thousands of jabs a day by this coming Friday in a drive to inoculate all 15million of the most vulnerable by February 15.
After claims of a postcode lottery, the Prime Minister declared: “It is our plan that everyone should have a vaccination available within a radius of ten miles.”
Grandmother Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to get the vaccine on December 8 2020, with roll out of the Oxford vaccine starting on January 4.
The vaccine offers hope against alarming rises in Covid infections after a highly-transmissible variant took hold in southern England.
But given it’s the largest vaccination drive in NHS history, things are not going entirely smoothly.
Critics say there’s been a slow start to the rollout of the two jabs that are on stream, Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca.
A third, Moderna, has been approved for use but won’t be in the UK for months.
To meet his target, Boris Johnson needs more than 300,000 vaccinations per day – starting from a week ago.
So what facts are there about the vaccine rollout, and when might you get yours? Here’s everything we know so far.
Who will get the Covid vaccine?
Everyone over 16 in the UK should eventually be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine – if they choose, and unless there is a medical reason they shouldn’t have it.
That is more than 50million people. Clearly, not all of them can get it at once – which is why a priority list has been drawn up.
Over-70s, elderly care home residents, frontline NHS and care staff, and ‘shielders’ will be in the first wave of vaccinations between now and February 15.
The vaccine is not recommended for most children because of “very limited data” about its effect on them. It is only advised for children “at very high risk of exposure and serious outcomes” – for instance those in care with neuro-disabilities.
The vaccine is not recommended for most pregnant women either because of “insufficient evidence” about the effect on the child.
However, breastfeeding women can get the vaccine. And so can pregnant women if they have “very high risk of serious complications” due to a health condition, or the risk of exposure is “high and can’t be avoided”.
Immunocompromised adults may get the vaccine but some may not respond as well to it. For that reason there may have to be a “cocooning” strategy for them even after the vaccine rolls out.
When will I get the Covid vaccine?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) has identified nine priority groups who will get the vaccine in the first wave of the rollout.
The Government believes vaccinating these groups – around 30 million people – would stop 99% of preventable Covid deaths.
However, Boris Johnson has only promised a firm timetable for the top four of these nine groups (in bold) – about 15million people in the UK. They have been promised a first dose by February 15.
The Department of Health says people in groups 5 to 9 will start getting their first doses between mid-February and the Spring. It’s not clear if that’ll clash with the huge demand for second doses that begins from early March.
The order is:
- Residents in care homes for older adults and their carers
- 80-year-olds and over and frontline health and social care workers
- 75-year-olds and over
- 70-year-olds and over and ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ individuals who have been told to shield
- 65-year-olds and over
- 16- to 64-year-olds with serious underlying health conditions (who weren’t already covered by shielding)
- 60-year-olds and over
- 55-year-olds and over
- 50-year-olds and over
What if I’m healthy and under 50?
Healthy under-50s will be in the second wave of the jab once the first is completed.
However, it’s not clear when this will happen and unless there’s a huge increase, it seems likely it won’t be before Easter.
The order for under-50s to get the jab has also not yet been decided.
Officials are also considering whether front-line workers such as teachers and the armed forces should be given priority, as their jobs could increase their risk.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said teachers and nursery staff have “a very strong case” for priority – because the government wants schools to reopen first.
How many vaccines do we have?
The UK has ordered 157million doses in total of approved vaccines – 40million of BioNTech/Pfizer, 100million of Oxford/AstraZeneca and 17million of Moderna.
In theory that’s more than enough for everyone in the UK, but it’s not that simple.
Only a fraction of those have been manufactured and shipped to hospitals and GPs so far. The UK will only be able to vaccinate people at the speed doses roll off the production line.
Batches must be approved by the MHRA regulator and moved from just one warehouse in Great Britain, at present, to sites all over the country.
What’s happening with second doses?
Everyone must have two doses of the vaccine, regardless of whether it is the Pfizer or Oxford jab. There is some protection after one dose but it’s not as good.
Initially people were supposed to get the Pfizer jab booster within 21 days. But on December 30 the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers dramatically changed tack.
Instead, people will only get their second dose after 11 to 12 weeks. This is to free up capacity to plunge as many first doses into arms as possible by Easter.
The policy has sparked controversy, and speculation that it could raise the risk of the virus mutating to develop resistance. The government’s advisors said they believe this risk to be small, and offering many people partial protection will save more lives.
Professor Chris Whitty said the longer gap raised a “theoretical risk” of an “escaped mutant” of the virus emerging. “That is a real worry but quite a small real worry within the system,” he told a No10 news conference.
“The general view was the size of the increase of the risk is sufficiently small that measured against this ability to double the number of people who actually are vaccinated, the public health arguments are really strongly for doing what we have decided to do.”
How will I be notified when it is my turn?
You will be contacted to book an appointment either by letter or by phone.
Hospital hubs and GP surgeries have already started rolling out jabs, and care homes are beginning to vaccinate patients and staff.
Where are the “super-vax” centres?
Seven mass vaccination centres are expected to open in the next week to speed up the rollout of the jab.
London’s Excel Centre and the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre are among the vast venues to hand out jabs.
Epsom Down’s racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, Birmingham’s Millennium Point and Robertson House in Stevenage will also operate as major vaccination hubs.
NHS staff and volunteers will staff these large conference and sports centres, and add to 775 GP-led centres and 207 hospital sites due to open by the end of this week.
How many people have had the vaccine so far?
More than 1.1 million people in England had been vaccinated by January 3, rising to 1.5 million for the whole of the UK.
NHS England figures show 308,541 patients had the jab in the week up to January 3.
In this period, 661,224 doses were given to people over 80-years-old.
Until December 29, all vaccinations were first doses but from December 29 to January 3, 19,981 second doses were given.
It is important to note that the Oxford jab was only approved by the regulator on December 30, with the rollout beginning on January 4, so it is not included in these figures.
The PM promised to start releasing daily vaccine figures next week, which should give a much clearer idea of the state of play.
What is Boris Johnson’s target – and can he meet it?
The Prime Minister has made a series of promises:
- Hundreds of thousands of vaccinations per day by January 15
- All care home residents get their first dose by January 31
- Everyone in the top four priority groups gets their first dose by February 15
- Everyone in England will be within 10 miles of a vaccination centre.
It’s the February 15 target that will be the hardest to meet. Rough figures suggest just over 300,000 people a day would need to be vaccinated from January 4 to meet it.
If figures are lower than that in the last week, as is expected, then the number of daily jabs will have to be even higher in late January.
Daily statistics will be published from this Monday but in reality it might not be clear if the PM’s met his target. It’ll never be true that everyone has been vaccinated in a certain group, because the jab isn’t compulsory.
Can I break lockdown if I’ve had the vaccine?
No. Lockdown rules apply to everyone and the government has ruled out ‘immunity passports’ that would apply rules to one group of society and not the other.
It’s also vital to note that, while the vaccine stops you getting sick, scientists don’t know yet if it stops you passing coronavirus on to other people.
So even though you’re safe, you could be a danger to your friends and family if you break the rules.
Boris Johnson is, however, hoping to gradually unwind lockdown rules from mid-February once the people most likely to die have had their first dose.
How can I help?
The Mirror has joined forces with Labour and the TUC to launch a ‘Let’s Vaccinate Britain’ campaign.
NHS England is looking for 50,000 stewards to help out at vaccine centres to ensure the speedy roll out of the vaccine.
To volunteer, go to nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk.