London, Jan 11 (PTI) The UK is facing a 'perilous moment' in the coronavirus pandemic, according to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who revealed that a total of 2.4 million vaccinations have been given to the highest risk categories as the government tabled a detailed vaccination programme on Monday.
During a visit to a vaccination centre in Bristol on the day hundreds of new mass vaccination venues opened up across the UK, Johnson reiterated the government’s message for the public to guard against false complacency and to strictly follow the stay-at-home lockdown rules until the effects of the vaccines kick in.
The state-funded National Health Service (NHS) said it is in a race to vaccinate as many people as possible with the first of two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs even as a continued surge in COVID-19 cases exerts immense pressure on hospital wards.
“We have a really tough fight on our hands… It is a very perilous moment because everyone can sense the vaccine is coming in – my worry is that will breed false complacency,' said Johnson.
'Today, I think I can confirm that we've done roughly 40 per cent of the 80-year-olds in this country already. We've done about 23 per cent of the elderly residents of care homes,' he said, adding that it was important to continue to follow the lockdown rules as more vaccines roll out as part of a “significant acceleration” drive.
Under the government’s vaccine delivery plan, by the end of January, everyone in England will be within 10 miles of a vaccination site or, for a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccine will be brought to them via mobile teams. There will also be capacity to deliver at least 2 million vaccinations in England per week by the end of January and all residents and staff in over 10,000 care homes across the country will be offered a vaccine by the end of the month.
This will be made possible by the rapid expansion of the programme to include 206 active hospital sites, 50 vaccination centres and around 1,200 local vaccination sites – including primary care networks, community pharmacy sites and mobile teams.
This will mean every at-risk person has easy access to a vaccination centre, regardless of where they live, the NHS said.
The expansion of the programme will also mean all adults in the country will be offered a vaccine by the autumn months of September to November.
“It’s taken a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication to make such an incredible start to this ambitious deployment programme. Our vaccine deployment plan sets out exactly how we will harness these efforts to expand the programme quickly and safely,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“Our UK COVID-19 vaccines delivery plan maps our route back to normality, but it does not mean we can be complacent and it is mission critical that everybody abides by the restrictions in the coming weeks. The next few months will present a significant opportunity to turn the tide of battle against COVID – I am looking forward to watching these plans bring more reassurance and hope back to people’s lives after a difficult year,” he said.
The NHS plan is split into four main areas of supply – including the development and manufacturing of vaccines, ensuring their safety and effectiveness; prioritisation – insight into the first two phases of deployment; places – ensuring simple, fair and convenient access to vaccinations for the public, regardless of where they live; and people – mobilising the workforce and providing information on vaccinations to local communities.
“The UK vaccines delivery plan is a culmination of all our hard work so far, and sets some very promising and challenging ambitions for the next few months,” said Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment.
“The UK has led the world in procuring, authorising and deploying vaccines and I am confident that, working closely with manufacturers, we are ready and able to meet the government’s target for vaccinations,” added Clive Dix, Interim Chair of the government’s Vaccines Taskforce.
The plan also reiterates a government commitment to offer the first vaccine dose to all those in the top priority groups recommended by the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) by February 15. With these groups accounting for 88 per cent of COVID-19 fatalities, the move is aimed at preventing thousands of deaths once their immunity develops in 14 days.
Under the updated advice, the second booster doses of the vaccines are now to be administered any time up to 12 weeks apart. PTI AK RUP