NHS vaccine programme ‘turning point’ in battle against the pandemic

NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens has today praised the efforts of hardworking staff for making the roll out of a Covid-19 vaccine possible, saying that the deployment marks a “decisive turning point” in the battle against the pandemic.

The NHS in England will begin the biggest and most highly anticipated immunisation campaign in history at 50 hospital hubs this week, with more starting vaccinations over the coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up.

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will be amongst the first hospitals to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Since the Pfizer vaccine got the green light from regulators last week, health service staff have been working around the clock to manage the huge scale logistical challenge of deploying the vaccine.

Dr Amanda Doyle OBE, Chief Officer for Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System, said:
“Local teams are working hard to put arrangements in place to allow us to start protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities. Being prepared for a vaccine involves a wide range of organisations. We’d like to thank our partners who are supporting this on a local basis including NHS, Lancashire County Council, Cumbria County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Blackpool Council, our district councils, the military, police and many more.”

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said:
“Coronavirus is the greatest health challenge in NHS history, taking loved ones from us and disrupting every part of our lives.

“Hospitals have now cared for more than 190,000 seriously ill Covid-19 patients and have seen beds fill up again in recent weeks.

“The deployment of this vaccine marks a decisive turning point in the battle with the pandemic. NHS vaccination programmes which have successfully helped overcome tuberculosis, polio, and smallpox, now turn their focus to coronavirus.

“NHS staff are proud to be leading the way as the first health service in the world to begin vaccination with this Covid jab.”

People aged 80 and over as well as care home workers will be first to receive the jab this week, along with NHS workers who are at higher risk.

Over the weekend, hospitals have begun inviting over 80s in for a jab and work with care home providers to book their staff in to vaccination clinics.

Hari Shukla, 87, from Tyne and Wear will become one of the first people in the world to get the Covid vaccine at hospital in Newcastle on Tuesday. 

Any appointments not used for these most at-risk groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from covid. All those vaccinated will need a booster jab 21 days later.

NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis has warned that the roll out of a vaccine will be a marathon not a sprint.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used.

GPs and other primary care staff have also been put on standby to start delivering the jab. A number of GP-led primary care networks will begin doing so next week with more practices in more parts of the country joining in on a phased basis during December.

Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients in sporting venues and conference centres will subsequently stand up when further supplies of vaccine come on stream.

Background information

Being the first health system in the World to deliver a vaccine is the latest in a long line of “firsts” for the NHS, which has led the world in numerous innovations including:

  • 1948: The NHS was the world’s first universal health care system

  • 1949: First tuberculosis vaccine was routinely offered to nurses in 1949.

  • 1958: The NHS delivers first mass vaccination programme, with everyone under the age of 15 vaccinated against polio and diphtheria.

  • 1962: NHS Professor Sir John Charnley completes the first full hip replacement.

  • 1972: The world’s first CT scan on a patient was carried out at Atkinson Morley Hospital, in Wimbledon, now part of St George’s Hospital

  • 1978: The world’s first baby is born as a result of in vitro fertilisation (IVF)

  • 1987: The world’s first combined liver, heart and lung transplant is carried out at Cambridgeshire’s Papworth Hospital

  • 1988: The MMR vaccine first introduced in 1988. Before this there were between 160,000 to 800,000 measles cases a year – piloted in Somerset, Fife and North Herts.

  • 1999: The Meningitis C vaccine was first introduced in 1999, the UK was the first country in the world to offer the jab on a national level thanks to the NHS.

  • 2010: British pensioner Kenneth Crocker, 70, was the world's first patient to have heart surgery using a fully remote-controlled robotic arm. The operation took place at the NHS’s Glenfield Hospital, Leicestershire.

  • 2016: Two NHS patients in England became some of the first in the world to benefit from pioneering hand and upper arm transplants.

  • 2019: World’s first gene therapy operation for common cause of sight loss carried out by researchers in Oxford last February.

  • 2020: NHS became the world's first national health system to commit to become 'carbon net zero’ in October this year.