The NHS reportedly needs to accelerate inoculations to vaccinate 14 million people 24/7 in just five weeks
Boris Johnson has pledged COVID-19 vaccines will be given 24/7 “as soon as we can”, as AstraZeneca said that it expects to release two million doses a week of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine by mid-February.
The Prime Minister has said that a huge network of 233 hospitals, 1,000 GP surgeries, 200 pharmacies and 50 mass vaccination centres throughout the UK is already working “exceptionally fast”, but “at the moment the limit is on supply” of the coronavirus vaccine.
“We will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can,” Boris Johnson told MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, adding that the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, would be setting out further details of the task “in due course”.
This comes after Prof Chris Whitty has urged the British public to minimise all unnecessary contact with other people. The next few weeks, before the rollout of vaccines nation-wide, will be the “most dangerous time” of the pandemic for the NHS, England’s chief medical officer has said.
“We’ve released just over 1.1 million doses, to date, and we are scaling up as we’ve said very rapidly. And this will happen imminently, to releasing two million doses a week, we’re absolutely on track to do that,” said Tom Keith-Roach, president of AstraZeneca UK.
“We’re scaling up to two million a week imminently, and certainly we hope to be there on or before the middle of February,” he told the cross-party parliamentary committee.
“If you have an outbreak at one of the centres – which we’ve had actually – or in one of the groups in Oxford is working on new variants, or the people that are working on the regulatory files, everything stops,” Sir Mene Pangalos said.
“This is a concern that I have and so again we’re pushing to try and get our key workers that are working on the vaccine project immunised to try and prevent these outbreaks.”
He added that the current data shows that an 8 to 12 week interval for the second dose of the Oxford vaccine would be a “sweet spot for efficacy”.
The second dose of vaccines are now being injected three months later than the government had originally planned to ensure that more people are given a first dose to help fight the UK’s rising COVID-19 infection rate.
This comes after the NHS is considering plans to discharge it’s patients into hotels as the nation’s hospitals become packed with COVID-19 patients, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now confirmed, saying that it was “impossible to know” how long the nation-wide lockdown restrictions might last.
Earlier, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, defended the move to prioritise the first set of vaccinations, rather than keeping doses to deliver the booster shots three weeks after.
He told LBC Radio: “We have all got older loved ones and if we want to protect as many as we can as quickly as possible, with a meaningful amount of protection, then the right strategy for us is to give the initial first dose and come back for the second when we have given more people the initial first dose,” he said.
“If you have got two grandparents and you have got two vaccines, what do you do – do you give two doses to one and leave the other one with nothing?”