Vaccine Minister Announces Plans For 24-Hour Vaccination Centres To Launch From The End Of January
The pilot scheme will launch in London from the end of this month
A pilot scheme to trial round-the-clock coronavirus vaccinations will launch in London by the end of the month, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has announced.
The trial programme to offer 24-hour vaccine appointments will begin in several London hospitals in the coming weeks in a bid to boost the numbers of those receiving the jab.
Speaking to Sky News, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said he believed the scheme would offer younger people a more "convenient" service for getting the vaccine as more people become eligible in the coming months.
"We are going to pilot the 24-hour vaccination, the NHS is going to pilot that in hospitals in London and we will look at how we expand that," he said.
Asked when the scheme could start, he added: "By the end of January, absolutely."
He said the current 8am to 8pm system "works much more conveniently for those who are over 80 and then as you move down the age groups it becomes much more convenient for people to go late at night and in the early hours".
The announcement came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said they were expanding the rollout to include the over-70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable from Monday.
"Today is a significant milestone in our vaccination programme as we open it up to millions more people who are most at risk from Covid-19," Mr Johnson said.
"We are now delivering the vaccine at a rate of 140 jabs a minute and I want to think everyone involved in this national effort.
"We have a long way to go and there will doubtless be challenges ahead - but by working together we are making huge progress on our fight against the virus."
Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director for NHS England, said the expansion would mean a further five million people would be eligible for the jab.
"We are now able to expand the vaccination programme beyond those top two priority groups...down to the over-70s," he said.
"So that brings around another five million or so people into the prioritisation groups for Covid vaccination.
"From today those over 70 years old will be invited in to our vaccination centres."
According to the government's figures, more than 3.8 million people in the UK, including care home residents, the over-80s and NHS staff, have already recieved their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
A further 10 mass vaccination centres are also set to open this week, adding to the seven which started offering jabs earlier this month.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Zahawi said supply of the vaccines "remains challenging" and was the limiting factor in scaling-up the deployment.
But he insisted that while any new mass manufacturing process was bound to have "challenges", he was "confident" the government would hit its target of offering vaccinations to everyone in the top four priority groups by the middle of February.
"We now have built a deployment infrastructure that can deploy as much vaccine as it comes through," he added.
"And so it's the vaccine supply which remains lumpy, it remains challenging. You may have over the weekend...some of the challenges around Pfizer and of course Oxford/Astra Zeneca, but I'm confident we can meet our target of mid-Fed for those top four cohorts."
Meanwhile, Mr Zahawi said other key workers, including supermarket staff, could also be given priority access to the jab in a bid to reduce the spread of infections.
While the decision to offer the jab to other groups is ultimately down to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, Mr Zahawi said it was his "very strong instinct" that other frontline staff should be given the opportunity to receive the vaccine.
"Teachers, policemen, shop workers - people who come into contact with people through no fault of their own - should get priority," he told Times Radio.