Covid vaccines: How will the mass immunisation be rolled out?

Doctor fills vaccine syringe

The Government has revealed more about the logistics of rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine as the first doses arrive in the UK. - Credit: Getty Images

As the first doses of the newly-approved coronavirus vaccine arrive at secure locations across the UK the Government has revealed more about how and when they will be given.

The UK was the first western country to licence a vaccine against Covid, opening the way for mass immunisation for those most at risk under phase one.

In a statement the Department of Health said there were a number of operational and logistical steps that needed to happen before the 40m doses it had procured could start being offered to the public.

Challenges revolve around the need to keep the vaccine at -70C while splitting packs and transporting them to various locations where they can be given to those most at need, like care home residents.

So far Pfizer has dispatched "initial volumes" of vaccine from Belgium which have arrived at secure locations in the UK.


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The vaccines then have to be temperature checked to ensure they have not been damaged in transit - a process that takes 12 to 24 hours.

In the following days each box needs to be opened and unpacked manually, and temperature data has to be downloaded from each box.

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Each vaccine pack contains five boxes with 975 doses per box and they can only be split at sites with the an MHRA licence from the medicines' regulator.

Once all checks are complete, the vaccine will be made available to order by authorised sites in the NHS, with around 50 sites in England so far and over 1,000 GP immunisation centres.

Because it has to be stored at very cold temperatures and moved carefully it will be administered from "hospital hubs" at first.

Defrosting the vaccine takes a few hours and then additional time is needed to prepare before people receive the jab.

Under the mass rollout over 1,000 local vaccination centres, operated by groups of GPs, will also come online where the vaccine can be stored in medical fridges for up to five days.

Once more vaccines arrive there will be both bigger vaccination centres and smaller arrangements through local pharmacies.

Thousands of extra staff and volunteers are being recruited across Norfolk and Waveney to create a huge team to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine with more people needed to give the jabs and volunteers to marshal delivery sites.

The priority list for phase one includes those in care homes and their carers and frontline health workers.

People will have two jabs, three weeks apart.

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