POLITICS
11/01/2021 11:00 AM AEDT | Updated 11/01/2021 7:57 PM AEDT

Matt Hancock To Hold Downing Street Press Conference On Vaccine Plan

Health secretary will outline national strategy for rollout of jabs in TV address on Monday afternoon.

Health secretary Matt Hancock will set out the UK’s plan to offer everyone a Covid-19 vaccine at a Downing Street press conference on Monday. 

The televised briefing comes as seven new mass vaccination centres opened their doors, including at London’s Nightingale Hospital, Birmingham’s Millennium Point and Epsom racecourse. 

The government has vowed to inoculate 13.8 million vulnerable people by mid-February and on Sunday Hancock pledged that everyone over 18 would be offered a jab by autumn. 

Three vaccines have now been approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford University/AstraZeneca and Moderna jabs – and around two million people have already been given one. 

But it is a race against time as chief medical officer Chris Whitty has warned that, despite national lockdown measures, the NHS is under more pressure than at any point in its history. Hancock has also said this third national lockdown will be England’s last now that vaccines are available. 

The seven vaccination centres opening this week are:

  • Excel Centre in London (London)
  • Ashton Gate in Bristol (south west)
  • Epsom racecourse in Surrey (south east)
  • Millennium Point in Birmingham (midlands)
  • Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England)
  • Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester (North West)
  • The Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne (North East and Yorkshire)

The government is under pressure to make teachers, police officers and other frontline workers a higher priority in the vaccine rollout, with ministers and Labour’s Keir Starmer saying there is a “good case” to inoculate teachers earlier. 

Since the historic day the first vaccine was approved, the NHS has made fantastic strides in offering the vaccine to as many at risk people as possible and at record pace,” said Hancock.  

“We have worked closely with experts across the NHS, local governments and the armed forces to put in place full and thorough preparations for this rollout – this is the biggest vaccination programme in British history. 

“From today, the full scale of our plans will be published, so the public can be assured of the time, effort and resources that have gone and will go into ensuring we protect the British people from the scourge of this virus.

“The UK vaccine delivery plan will be the keystone of our exit out of the pandemic, but we all must continue to play our part by staying at home, following the rules and keeping hands, face, space at the forefront of our minds when out and about.” 

The full priority list, decided by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, is as follows (the government has pledged to offer the top four a jab by February 15):  

  • All residents in a care home for older adults and their carers;
  • All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers;
  • All those 75 years of age and over;
  • All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
  • All those 65 years of age and over
  • All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  • All those 60 years of age and over
  • All those 55 years of age and over
  • All those 50 years of age and over

Boots has also confirmed it will begin to offer the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab at UK sites, with the first to open a purpose-built facilities in Halifax this week, followed by others in Huddersfield and Gloucester soon. 

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said said the vaccine rollout so far had been a “truly been a remarkable effort”. 

He said: “Our plan of action will set out our ambitions for the coming weeks and months as we continue to expand our programme at breakneck speed, with strategies to underpin every commitment.

“It’s been phenomenal to see our extensive preparations come to fruition and from tomorrow the public will also be able to see exactly how we will ensure they and their loved ones get the vaccine as quickly as possible.”