Tony Blair leads calls for UK to accelerate Covid vaccination

Tony Blair leads calls for Britain to dramatically accelerate Covid vaccination drive with pop-up jab centres and volunteers as ex-PM insists 5million doses a week is ‘not complicated’

  • Former PM claims half UK population could have been vaccinated by April
  • He said suppliers could reach 5million doses per week by the end of March
  • Report calls for infrastructure to make sure all doses are given as soon as ready
  • Pubs, offices and polling stations should be used and staffed by volunteers 

Former prime minister Tony Blair today said the UK needs to dramatically accelerate its coronavirus vaccination programme in order to lift lockdown rules in the spring.

Claiming ‘it’s not complicated’ on live TV this morning as he launched a ‘blue-print’ for improving the country’s vaccine roll-out, Mr Blair suggested restrictions could ease ‘significantly’ in February if the NHS scales up to millions of jabs every week.

As supplies flow into the country in the coming weeks, Mr Blair said, officials should strain every sinew to make sure every dose is used as soon as possible. He said there should be pop-up vaccine centres and mobile ones, that pharmacies should be used, and volunteers recruited en masse.

Polling stations, pubs and offices should be used as hubs and supplies could provide as many as three million doses per week by the end of February, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change said in a report.

By the end of February, the institute claims that half the population could have had the first dose of a vaccine to protect them from Covid-19. Britain has only pledged to vaccinate 13million of the most vulnerable residents by the middle of next month.

Mr Blair has become involved in the vaccine policy after he was the first to publicly suggest restricting jabs to one dose to begin with and stretching them further, avoiding holding back supplies to ensure people get a second one. This has since become the official policy of the Government’s roll-out. 

His comments came as a GP on the frontline of Britain’s coronavirus vaccine push revealed doctors have still not received doses that were supposed to arrive last month, amid fears Boris Johnson has over-promised with his pledge to jab 13million Brits and end lockdown by March.

Dr Rosemary Leonard, an NHS family doctor who works in South London, said her practices were ‘raring to go’ and had been waiting on their first batch of vaccinations since December 28. But she claimed the delivery date has been pushed back three times already, with the first doses now not due to arrive until January 15, more than a fortnight late.

Tony Blair claimed all adults in the UK could have had the first dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of March if new jabs go to plan and can be rolled out as quickly as they’re manufactured

In his institute’s report Mr Blair said the UK should be preparing for the possibility that it could have a supply of five million vaccine doses per week by the end of March and it should be able to give them all out as quickly as they’re delivered.

He said that, by the week after next, AstraZeneca should be able to supply two million vaccines a week, rising to as many as three million per week in February.

Millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab are already in the country and more are coming.

And he said it was possible Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could be approved in February or March and then supply millions per week to the UK in March.

Moderna is also expected to deliver millions of doses in the spring.    

He said based on these figures, the Government could be looking at three million doses a week by the end of January, four million a week by the end of February and five million a week by the end of March.

‘This would allow us to ease restrictions significantly in February and have a majority of the population vaccinated by the end of the third week of March,’ Mr Blair said.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, the former Labour leader said the UK must ‘use every single available bit of capacity in order to make sure these vaccines are used’.

PHARMACISTS OFFER TO JOIN COVID VACCINE ROLL-OUT 

Pharmacists have begged the Government to let small chains dish out coronavirus vaccinations to help Boris Johnson fulfill his ambitious promise of immunising 13million people and ending the national lockdown by March.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said today there were thousands of high street pharmacies ‘ready, willing and able’ to assist in the rollout of the programme, which will require jabbing a mammoth 3million Brits a week. 

So far only 1.3 million people in the UK have been vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech jabs since the programme launched a month ago. There is a growing clamour today for the process to be ramped up dramatically – with concerns that local chemists and other facilities are not being used enough.  

The Government has approved several larger pharmacies to begin dishing out doses from next week, but the sites were only chosen if they were able to guarantee they could deliver at least 950 doses per day and had two trained pharmacists administering them at all times, sources say. This was necessary for the Pfizer vaccine – which was complicated to store and handle – but the arrival of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab opens the door for much smaller sites to help. 

The Royal College of GPs warned Number 10 must ditch its ‘bureaucratic barriers’ and start recruiting pharmacists if it wants the roll out to be a success, while the National Pharmacy Association claimed it was a ‘no-brainer’ that local chemists are brought on board because the nation was ‘crying out for convenient access to the vaccine’.

Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, said small high street pharmacies could help administer an extra 1million doses a week and bolster the lagging rollout. She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘We are already used to delivering the flu vaccine. You have got an army of trained vaccinators who are ready, willing and able to play and part.

‘With the AstraZeneca vaccine there is no reason why that could not be delivered through community pharmacies. There are over 11,000 pharmacies. If each of those does 20-a-day that is 1.3 million-a-week extra vaccines that can be provided, very often to those who are hardest to reach. Why would any government not want to do that?’ 

This would involve using community pharmacies as vaccinators alongside retired people and occupational health workers, and using pop-up and mobile vaccination clinics.

‘We need to be ramping all of this up, and we just need to go on to a completely different footing with it,’ he said.

‘There’s really no reason why you need a very complicated system to do it. I get a flu jab every year and I get it at my local pharmacy, it’s not complicated.’

Earlier, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said 99 per cent of deaths could be stopped by vaccinating the top nine priority groups laid down by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

When asked how long it would take to give jabs to those groups, Mr Zahawi said: ‘I’m very hopeful that by the spring we will get through the nine categories.’

On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested that regulatory approval of batches of the new Oxford vaccine was a bottleneck stopping more jabs being released to hospitals and GP surgeries.

He said a ‘rate-limiting’ factor was the approval process and this would now be ‘ratcheted up’.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it was working quickly while not compromising safety.

An MHRA spokesman said: ‘We are working closely with the manufacturer, AstraZeneca, to ensure that batches of the vaccine are released as quickly as possible.

‘Biological medicines such as vaccines are very complex in nature and independent testing, as done by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, is vital to ensure quality and safety.

‘NIBSC has scaled up its capacity to ensure that multiple batches can be tested simultaneously, and that this can be done as quickly as possible, without compromising quality and safety.’

At the same time as the NIBSC tests batches, vaccine manufacturers conduct their own quality tests.

Manufacturers then send evidence to the NIBSC in the form of a document called a batch-specific lot release protocol.

Meanwhile, the Government has denied reports that a shortage of glass vials for the vaccine is causing any delays.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: ‘There is no shortage of vials for the UK. We have been monitoring the requirements across the supply chain from supplier through to patient for some time.

‘There are clear supply chain plans in place for both the supply and onward deployment of all vaccine candidates.

‘This includes materials, manufacturing, transport, storage and distribution.’

AstraZeneca and Pfizer have also both reportedly dismissed suggestions they cannot supply the vaccine fast enough.

Oxford Biomedica, the main manufacturer of the ‘raw’ vaccine in the UK for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, has said it is running at full production.

GP dishing out Covid vaccine says they have had NO doses despite being ‘raring to go’ and pharmacists beg NHS to remove ‘red tape’ and let them dish out jabs to hit 3million a week – as Bensons and G-A-Y nightclub offer to turn into inoculation centres

A GP on the frontlines of Britain’s great coronavirus vaccine push has revealed doctors have still not received doses that were supposed to arrive last month, amid fears Boris Johnson has over-promised with his pledge to jab 13million Brits and end lockdown by March.

Dr Rosemary Leonard, an NHS family doctor who works in South London, said her practices were ‘raring to go’ and had been waiting on their first batch of vaccinations since December 28. 

But she claimed the delivery date has been pushed back three times already, with the first doses now not due to arrive until January 15, more than a fortnight late. 

Dr Leonard, who also writes a column for the Daily Express newspaper, warned the vaccine roll out was becoming a ‘postcode lottery for patients’, and believes the delay is the result of ‘central supply issues’. 

Despite being just days into the rollout of the Oxford vaccine, there has already been finger-pointing between the Government, regulators and the jab’s manufacturer AstraZeneca over who is to blame for the delays.

Matt Hancock and NHS bosses have suggested manufacturing has been too slow, while the Prime Minister has blamed the UK’s stringent batch testing rules which mean every deliver of vaccine needs to be quality checked.  

It comes as independent pharmacists begged the Government to let small chains dish out vaccinations to help Number 10 fulfill its ambitious vaccine promises, which will require jabbing a mammoth 3million Brits a week.

MailOnline has spoken to at least half a dozen membership bodies which claim there are 11,000 pharmacies ‘ready, willing and able’ to assist in the rollout of the programme. They say they are being held back by more Government red tape.

Meanwhile, the high street has also thrown its weight behind the rollout of the mass vaccination scheme to get life back to normal by spring. Bensons for Beds today revealed it has written to the Government, offering all 250 of its stores across the UK to serve as temporary vaccination centres. And the owner of the London nightclub G-A-Y claimed this morning he’d written to Westminster Council putting forward his venue. 

So far only 1.3 million people in the UK have been vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech jabs since the programme launched a month ago. There is a growing clamour today for the process to be ramped up dramatically – with concerns that local chemists and other facilities are not being used enough. 


Dr Rosemary Leonard (left), an NHS family doctor who works in South London, said her practices were ‘raring to go’ and had been waiting on their first batch of vaccinations since December 28. But she claimed the delivery date has been pushed back three times already, with the first doses now not due to arrive until January 15, more than a fortnight late

The seven mass vaccination centres to start administering jabs next week 

The seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week have been outlined – with venues in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing that the centres would include:

Robertson House in Stevenage

ExCel Centre in London

Centre for Life in Newcastle

Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester

Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey

Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol 

Millennium Point in Birmingham

In other vaccine news:

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government is ditching Covid vaccine ‘red tape’ which prevented people from administering jabs until they had taken anti-terrorism training; 
  • The Prime Minister admitted the rollout of coronavirus vaccines to care homes ‘needs to be stepped up’, as he revealed just one in 10 residents and 14 per cent of staff have received a jab;
  • The seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week have been outlined – with venues in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage;
  • Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned Britain needs to be vaccinating 5million people a week by March to get the pandemic under control this year because the highly-infectious strain of Covid has made most lockdown measures useless;
  • The EU has beaten the UK to approving the Moderna vaccine, with the bloc to start dishing out doses next week – while Britain won’t get any until spring;
  • The World Health Organization has refused to back the UK’s move to space the Pfizer Covid vaccine doses by 12 weeks because there is no proof it will work.

In a series of tweets, Dr Rosemary Leonard said: ‘Covid vaccination — from the front line. My group of practices was initially told we would get our first delivery on 28th december. Then 4th jan. Then 11th jan. Now we are ‘6th wave’ and it will be 13th, 14th or 15th jan. We are raring to go, but have no vaccines. WHY?

‘And from replies loads of practices across the country are in same position, is real postcode lottery for patients. There must be central supply issues- would be good to be given a truthful explanation.’

It is unclear what is causing the hold-up of the vaccines. Boris Johnson has blamed the batch testing process that Britain’s medical regulator made mandatory when it approved both the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines last month.

The bulk vaccine has to undergo a ‘sterility test’ when it goes to the ‘fill and finish’ operation to make it ready for use. 

Asked about whether batch testing was stalling the roll out, the Government’s vaccines tsar Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News this morning: ‘The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) are doing everything in their capability to do it properly without cutting corners and safety to test every batch,’ Mr Zahawi said.

‘The worst thing we can do… in a national vaccination programme that is the biggest in this nation’s history, is to get this wrong.’

Mr Zahawi admitted this morning that the 13million vaccine goal was ‘very stretching’ – but can be delivered.  

Challenged that given the speed of the rollout so far the weekly figure will need to be more like three million than two million by February to hit the PM’s target, Mr Zahawi nodded and said: ‘You’re going to see that increase – the NHS have got a very clear plan. We’ve got a fantastic team working, seven days a week, all hours to deliver this. No doubt, it is a stretching target. But I think it’s one that we should absolutely look to deliver.’ 

Mr Zahawi added: ‘I’m confident that as we begin to deploy and get more sites operational – I talked about the hospitals, the GPs, the community pharmacies and the national vaccination centres – so we will be at over 1,000 sites vaccinating.’  

As the Government struggles to get the vaccines into arms at speed, independent pharmacists have offered to deliver doses from local chemists to bolster the vaccination drive.

However, they have complained of ‘bureaucratic barriers’ preventing them from getting approval to do so.

The Government has approved several larger pharmacies to begin dishing out doses from next week, but the sites were only chosen if they were able to guarantee they could deliver at least 950 doses per day and had two trained pharmacists administering them at all times, sources say.

This was necessary for the Pfizer vaccine – which was complicated to store and handle – but the arrival of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab opens the door for much smaller sites to help. However smaller pharmacies say the red tape in place for Pfizer vaccine was stalling them from being able to deliver the Oxford jab.

The Royal College of GPs warned Number 10 must ditch its bureaucracy and start recruiting pharmacists if it wants the roll out to be a success, while the National Pharmacy Association claimed it was a ‘no-brainer’ that local chemists are brought on board because the nation was ‘crying out for convenient access to the vaccine’.

Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, said small high street pharmacies could help administer an extra 1million doses a week and bolster the lagging rollout. She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘We are already used to delivering the flu vaccine. You have got an army of trained vaccinators who are ready, willing and able to play and part.

‘With the AstraZeneca vaccine there is no reason why that could not be delivered through community pharmacies. There are over 11,000 pharmacies. If each of those does 20-a-day that is 1.3 million-a-week extra vaccines that can be provided, very often to those who are hardest to reach. Why would any government not want to do that?’

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth piled pressure on NHS England to use local pharmacies to get the jab into as many Britons as possible, and bring the pandemic to a swift end.

‘Community Pharmacy already deliver flu jabs, are respected and trusted by local people,’ he said.

‘As well as GPs, community pharmacy should be mobilised everywhere to meet the vaccine challenge.

‘We need to go further and faster on vaccination. There isn’t a moment to lose.’



Smaller pharmacies have begged to help with Britain’s vaccine rollout but say red tape is preventing them. Pictured: Rish Shah aged 35 from C.W Pharmacy in East Finchley, North London and Mojgun Behkar and Alnoor Thobani from Cootes Pharmacy in Finchley

Why HASN’T Britain approved Moderna’s Covid jab? EU gives jab the green light – but UK regulators haven’t because No10 can’t get ANY doses until March 

Europe’s drug regulator today approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine and could get supplies within weeks because of a deal it struck in summer last year.

But Britain will miss out on early access to the vaccine because it officially left the EU last week and did not place its own order early enough to get an exclusive supply.

UK regulators didn’t rush to approve the vaccine when phase three trials finished at the end of last year because it couldn’t get any delivered until the spring.

They will now have to do their own assessment of the jab because the automatic carry-over for licences granted by the EU ended with Brexit. 

Moderna’s jab, which appears to be just as good as Pfizer/BioNTech’s and works in the same way, is already being used on members of the public in the US.

The US got first dibs on supplies of the jab in exchange for funding its research and development, and other countries were offered deliveries early in 2021.

Experts on the European Medicines Agency gave the vaccine their seal of approval today, and the European Commission is expected to give it the final sign-off within hours so it can start to be used.

Europe pencilled in a deal in August and could get supplies within weeks, MailOnline understands. 

Scientists in the UK said not ordering Moderna’s vaccine earlier was not an error because it would have been a gamble to order another vaccine the same as Pfizer’s, both of which use the same technology that had never been tried before Covid-19.

But as Britain is now scrambling to vaccinate millions of people every week and fears being hamstrung by supply shortages, an extra jab could have been a blessing. 

Leyla Hannbeck, the chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, today called on the NHS to make use of the ‘invisible army’ of local pharmacies to roll out the vaccine.

‘We can do millions of jabs through pharmacies,’ she told MailOnline. ‘I’ve been banging on the doors of NHS England about this.

‘We know the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t as challenging to give out as the Pfizer one because it can be stored at a lower temperature, so it could be treated like the flu vaccine.

‘I know some of my members, they can just get in there and do thousands. So please just get in touch with pharmacies and we can get millions done in weeks.’

WHO refuses to back UK’s move to space Pfizer Covid vaccine doses by 12 weeks because there is no proof it will work 

The World Health Organization has refused to give its blessing to Britain’s plan to space the two doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine by more than a month.

Officials in the UK have decided to use all available doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which was the first to be approved, to get a single dose to as many people as possible. In the process they will leave people waiting up to 12 weeks for their second jab. 

Covid cases started to fall around 12 days after people got their first dose in studies but, because everyone got a second shot just 10 days later, scientists don’t know how long immunity from the initial jab would last. 

The WHO yesterday said governments should be giving people their second dose within 21 to 28 days of having the first, to make sure the vaccine works long-term.

But it did not attack Britain’s decision not to do this, admitting the Government had been forced to make a difficult decision because of spiralling infections and deaths in recent weeks.

One of the experts said they ‘totally acknowledge that countries may see needs to be even more flexible in terms of the administration of the second dose’.

It comes after England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, defended the controversial move again last night, saying the benefits of it outweigh the risks. 

He admitted there was a chance it could increase the risk of the virus developing vaccine resistance in the future but that the need to vaccinate people now was overwhelming.

Petition to get teachers vaccinated passes 300,000 

More than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for teachers to be prioritised for a coronavirus vaccine.

The petitioned – which has gained 307,000 signatures in three weeks – urges all childcare staff to be put on the vaccine priority list in order to get schools back faster.

All pupils – except children of key workers and vulnerable youngsters – have moved to remote education until February half-term amid the national lockdown after data showed schools were driving transmission of the new strain of coronavirus and helping the disease spread into the wider community.

Exams have also been thrown into disarray for the second year in a row, with GCSE and A-level exams cancelled over summer.

The petition says: ‘Advice from the JCVI on the priority groups for a Covid-19 vaccine does not include school/childcare workers. 

‘This petition calls for these workers, who cannot distance or use PPE, to be kept safe at work by being put on the vaccine priority list when such a list is adopted into government policy.’

The vaccine priority list drawn up by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is based on how likely a person is to die from Covid.

It puts care home residents, frontline health and social care staff, elderly people and those with underlying health conditions at the front of the queue. 

The group does not currently offer any advice to vaccinate people based on their occupation or how likely they are to drive transmission. 

She said NHS England had invited pharmacies to sign up to deliver the vaccine in late November, but that this was only for the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. This meant many pharmacies did not apply, because they didn’t have the right equipment to store the jab at -78C (-94F) required.

Andrew Lane, chair of the National Pharmacy Association, added: ‘Pharmacies can play a significant role in the Covid vaccination programme, and we’re well equipped to get started immediately. We have been on the health service frontline throughout the pandemic and now we want to join this latest, decisive, battle against this deadly virus.

‘The vast majority of pharmacies provide flu vaccinations, so there are thousands of potential local pharmacy sites for vaccinating against COVID, capable of protecting millions of people within weeks. We are bound to ask, what on earth is stopping the NHS from mobilising more pharmacies for this vital task?

‘Pharmacists want to help, they are already trained for giving vaccines, and people are crying out for convenient local access to the vaccine. It’s surely a no-brainer that pharmacies should be supported to take part in this urgent national effort.

‘The process for signing-up to give vaccines needs to be as agile as the workforce and should allow pharmacy teams to come on board rapidly. Approval of the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine, for which storage is easier, means that many more pharmacies are now capable of offering vaccinations.’

Rish Shah, 35, from West Hampstead, is a pharmacist at C. W Andrew Pharmacy, which has been serving the local community for over 100 years.

Mr Shah said: ‘So what’s happened is, the government has asked us to apply for a contract for 1,000 vaccines a week. But obviously you can’t have 1,000 people walking in here every day, so we had to find a location, like a hall or a school.

‘That was the deal. We didn’t apply because for one, we didn’t have the staff to go off site. We are willing to do it because we do flu jabs and travel vaccines here. But we can’t have a target of 1,000 a week, that’s impossible.

‘If they tell us 200 a week then that’s do-able. When we’re doing flu vaccines this year, we’re probably doing 30 a day, so that’s do-able.

‘I think it’s because the Pfizer vaccine comes in a fridge in a batch of 900 vaccines so you have to finish those in the five day period. I think we’re ready because you know when we did flu jabs, doctor surgeries were closed, so we’re easier access for patients, because they come here anyway and they know us. And most of our customers have asked when we are going to start them, but we have to be given permission first.’

Herman, 50, and his wife Simone Benjamin, 47, who own Oakdale Pharmacy further up the street, have had the same problem. Mr Benjamin said: ‘You apply to administer the vaccine but you know the criteria for the Pfizer vaccine. They wanted 1,000 a week and there are so many different logistics involved in that, it ruled myself out certainly.

‘All you got to do is ask the government and NHS England what difference pharmacies made to flu vaccinations. I think it’s been another record year. So we can certainly make an impact because you know, it all adds up.

‘We are very willing because you know, it’s a big task involved, but obviously the first application to do 1,000 was just impossible.

‘I have no idea why, but the only thing I can see is at the time it was the only vaccine that was out. And there’s a time limit on how long it can be kept and certain storage.

‘Now there’s the second one which can be just stored in the refrigerator and I don’t see why we can’t play a part because as I say we’re doing flu vaccinations and the numbers speak for themselves.

‘Hopefully we will play a part sooner rather than later. You know all you need is a little bit here, a little bit there, if each pharmacy does it, before you know it we’re there.

‘The thing is you’re reaching out to people that wouldn’t go to a centre, that I feel is our main part, you know, we’re accessible, we’re on the high street.’

Ms Benjamin added: ‘It’s a logistical issue as well, where are we going to do it in the pharmacy, how can we ensure privacy and the patient’s dignity. As well as the speed, we’ve got pressure on us to immunise a certain number of people within a certain amount of time.

‘We don’t know if that’s still the case but certainly they handed out a directive saying you have to immunise a certain number of people within a week, which was unrealistic for a small independent pharmacy with a limited amount of staff and one pharmacist.’

Mojgun Behkar, 26, from Kilburn, a pharmacist at Cootes Pharmacy said: ‘No we didn’t apply for the vaccine license because of the temperature they told us, it was a bit unrealistic.

‘They told us we had to keep at least 1,000 vaccines and we had to be open from 8:00AM to 8:00PM, but obviously we open from 9:00AM to 6:30PM.

‘And we need to have at least two pharmacists working on the same day, one to vaccinate, one to do the dispensary. If they changed the criteria I would 100 per cent consider applying for it because I want to help the country.

‘This is why I chose this career. In terms of challenges, I would presume there will be a lot of pressure with people queuing up. We need to have more staff to cover other stuff, but more staff means more money, especially as we are independent.

‘I think pharmacies should 100 per cent be playing a role in this. They can take pressure off the GPs, allowing them to spend more time in more critical roles like diagnosing and stuff like that.

‘We would be able to help in terms of vaccinating more people, maybe half or a third of what the GPs have to do. In this area there’s no Boots so if we are able to do it, or more pharmacies are able to do it, not just the chains, it means more vaccinations and in less time. Earlier than what Boris Johnson expects.

‘The COVID vaccine is similar to the flu vaccine, it goes in the same part, you do the same thing, it takes around five minutes per patient.’  

The Royal College of GPs has warned the Government it must ditch its red tape and start recruiting pharmacists immediately because achieving the vaccine targets will require a ‘all hands on deck’ approach.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGP, said: ‘GPs and our teams are working incredibly hard to vaccinate as many people as possible, starting with our most vulnerable, to protect them from this dreadful virus. This is alongside delivering the expanded flu vaccination programme, and the usual care and services our patients rely on us for. We need to vaccinate 2m patients a week – that’s a challenging but necessary target, and we can’t do it alone.

‘Pharmacists are hugely experienced in delivering the flu jab and play a key role in the delivery of the flu vaccination programme every year. They are ready and willing to help and it makes absolute sense for them to be able to – and it was encouraging to hear the Vaccine Minister say pharmacists will be involved in the CVP this morning. The situation is urgent. We need all hands-on deck and we’d like to see any healthcare professionals who are willing and appropriately trained to be able to join the effort do so with minimal bureaucratic barriers.’

Meanwhile, the high street has also offered to chip in with the country’s inoculation programme. Superdrug and Boots are poised to start dishing out thousands of jabs next week after getting the green-light from Number 10 and are just waiting on delivery of doses, while car parks at supermarket Morrisons will be converted to drive-through vaccination centres from Monday.

Tesco has offered up its warehouses and lorries to help move doses quickly around the country and craft brewer BrewDog has claimed it’s in talks with ministers about turning its closed bars into temporary jab hubs. Pub chains are also offering to help, with firms such as Young’s, Marston’s and Loungers putting forward their venues as potential sites. 

RESEARCHERS CLAIM THEY’VE MADE WORLD’S FIRST CORONAVIRUS VACCINE PATCH 

The world’s first coronavirus vaccine ‘smart patch’ is being developed in Wales, researchers have said.

The device, which works like a nicotine patch, is designed to allow patients to self-administer the vaccine before being able to monitor their body’s response to it.

The small patch will use tiny microneedles, which are measured in millionths of a metre, to break the skin barrier of a patient and deliver the vaccine in a less invasive way than a traditional hypodermic needle.

The device simultaneously measures a patient’s inflammatory response to the vaccination by monitoring biomarkers in the skin while being held in place on their arm with tape or a strap.

The real-time measuring of the vaccine’s effectiveness is hoped to speed up the containment of future Covid-19 outbreaks.

Researchers at Swansea University say the devices would be easy to distribute and low-cost to manufacture, with scope to expand the work to apply to other infectious diseases in the future.

A prototype will be developed by the end of March with the aim of having it put forward for clinical trials and then made commercially available within three years.

Project lead Dr Sanjiv Sharma said the quick measuring of the vaccines’ effectiveness ‘will address an unmet clinical need and would provide an innovative approach to vaccine development.’

He added: ‘The real-time nature of the platform will mean rapid results allowing faster containment of the Covid-19 virus. This low-cost vaccine administration device will ensure a safe return to work and management of subsequent Covid-19 outbreak waves.

‘Beyond the pandemic, the scope of this work could be expanded to apply to other infectious diseases as the nature of the platform allows for quick adaptation to different infectious diseases.’

‘We are currently getting the platform ready and we hope to do human clinical studies on transdermal delivery with our existing partners at Imperial College London, in preparation for final implementation.’

The project, titled ‘Smart vaccine devices for delivery of COVID-19 vaccination’, is being funded by the Welsh Government and the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund.

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