Published: 00:01, 06 December 2020
A hospital in Kent will be among the first to administer the Covid-19 vaccine - as the NHS embarks on its biggest-ever vaccination programme.
The William Harvey in Ashford is set to open its vaccination hub this week.
Run by East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the hospital is one of 50 in the UK that will be administering the nation's first wave of vaccines.
NHS staff are working through the weekend to prepare for the launch of the programme, with the first vaccinations set to take place on Tuesday.
Just 50 hospital vaccination hubs are opening during the first wave, but more hospitals will start vaccinating in coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up.
Patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
Hospitals will also begin inviting over 80s in for a jab and work with care home providers to book their staff in to vaccination clinics.
Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from Covid-19.
All those vaccinated will need a booster jab 21 days after their first injection.
GPs and other primary care staff are also being put on standby to start delivering the jab.
A small number of GP-led primary care networks will begin doing so during the following week, beginning December 14, with more practices set to join in on a phased basis during December and in coming months.
When further supplies of the vaccine become available, vaccination centres will also open in sporting venues and conference centres, with the capacity to treat large numbers of patients.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday.
"The first tranche of vaccine deliveries will be landing at hospitals by Monday in readiness.
“The NHS has a strong record of delivering large scale vaccination programmes - from the flu jab, HPV vaccine and lifesaving MMR jabs. Hardworking staff will once again rise to the challenge to protect the most vulnerable people from this awful disease.”
The life-saving vaccine is typically delivered by a simple injection in the shoulder but there is a complex and difficult logistical challenge to deliver from the manufacturers Pfizer to patients.
Last month, Whitstable GP Dr John Ribchester spoke of the challenges faced by surgeries that are set to administer the vaccine, which must be stored at -70C before being thawed out.
NHS staff have been working over the weekend to prepare hospital sites and accept deliveries.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This coming week will be an historic moment as we begin vaccination against COVID-19.
“We are prioritising the most vulnerable first and over-80s, care home staff and NHS colleagues will all be among the first to receive the vaccines.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure we can overcome significant challenges to vaccinate care home residents as soon as possible too.
“I urge everybody to play their part to suppress this virus and follow the local restrictions to protect the NHS while they carry out this crucial work.”