The UK will see the largest-scale immunisation programme in its history begin this week when the first Covid-19 vaccines are administered. NHS staff have been working through the weekend to prepare for the launch, but what does that entail and what can people expect in the next few days?
We have looked at the key questions around what has been going on behind the scenes ahead of an historic week and how it will all unfold.
– When did the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arrive and where are they?
The delivery of the first batch of vaccine vials arrived from Belgium on Thursday, with rollout starting on Tuesday.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, as people need to receive two doses.
There are 800,000 doses in the first tranche, meaning that 400,000 people will be vaccinated initially.
The vaccines have been stored in undisclosed secure locations to ensure the security of the vaccine and of those storing and delivering it.
– Are all the vaccines in the right place and ready for the first day of rollout?
Doses have already been arriving at vaccine hubs in preparation for Tuesday, but it is not known when exactly all 50 hubs in England will receive vaccine doses, as they are starting to administer the jab at different times and deliveries are expected to happen throughout the week.
Pictures show the arrival of a batch of vaccines at Croydon University Hospital in south London over the weekend, with similar scenes unfolding all around the country.
– How are the vaccines stored?
The vaccine needs storage temperatures of minus 70C to minus 80C.
Public Health England said it has secured 58 specialised Twin Guard ultra-low temperature freezers which provide sufficient storage for approximately five million doses of potential Covid-19 vaccines which require ultra-low temperature storage.
The freezers are in the UK, fully operational, and located in national storage facilities in Britain and in Northern Ireland.
The freezers, which are not portable, each hold about 86,000 doses.
– Where exactly will vaccines be administered?
Jabs will be administered at dozens of hospital hubs from Tuesday – with people aged 80 and over, care home workers and NHS workers who are at higher risk the first to receive the vaccine.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said hospitals in England have identified an appropriate place on their estate where they can conduct the vaccinations.
He said the ideal scenario is that this place is close to a cark park and separate from any other clinical area where there might be a risk of Covid-19 infection.
Staff will be working out the best arrangements in a socially distanced way and there will be timed slots to minimise queueing.
– How are appointments being arranged?
Mr Hopson said staff have been identifying people in the key target groups and lists have been passed to appointment bookers who have been making phone calls to arrange appointments.
He said some hospitals are focusing on people who are due to come in for an outpatient appointment, or indeed those who are currently receiving care in hospital.
Mr Hopson said hospitals are also talking to care homes which have been asked to provide lists of their workers.
– What will the appointment involve?
When a person arrives they will be registered and be prescribed the vaccine.
A computer system will issue an email or a letter to the patient and their GP saying they have had the vaccine and confirming a follow-up date for three weeks later when they will get the second dose.
The jab is typically delivered by an injection in the shoulder.
– Should everyone aged 80 and over expect a phone call this week?
No. Mr Hopson said people should not get anxious or worried if they do not receive a call or a letter, adding that the vast majority of people will not be vaccinated until early 2021.
He anticipates that there will be communications in the coming weeks telling people how quickly they are getting through those who are over 80.
– Are care home residents not a priority?
They are indeed. They are at the very top of the priority list but there are challenges with getting the jab to them.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used.
The vaccine boxes containing 975 doses will need to be split so that they can be taken to care homes.
Mr Hopson said this will get going in about a week’s time and will be led by primary care networks.
– What plans are in place in Scotland?
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said initial supplies of the vaccine have arrived safely and are being stored securely ahead of the first jabs being administered on Tuesday.
Care home residents in Scotland will be able to receive the Pfizer Covid vaccine from December 14.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP said Scotland will receive 8.2% of the 800,000 doses (just over 65,500) in the first delivery secured by the UK, with more to come in the weeks ahead.
She said the doses will go to the 23 commercial-size freezers in acute hospitals around Scotland which can hold the vaccine in the very low temperature it requires.
Future plans include mass vaccination centres but that will be further down the line when vaccinators are dealing with much younger people.
Other plans include mobile vaccination centres and high street locations where people can go for a jab.
– What is happening in Northern Ireland?
Tuesday is the big day in Northern Ireland too, and the PA news agency understands that the first Pfizer/BioNTech dose will be administered at 8am at a mass vaccination centre at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
The recipient will be one of an 800-plus team of vaccinators that will be involved in the subsequent roll-out programme and there are 25,000 doses in the initial batch of the vaccine.
Healthcare workers will be able to get the vaccine through the remainder of December at seven centres spread across the region.
Two of the facilities are located on hospital grounds – at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald and Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital – and the rest in leisure centres.
The centres will operate 12 hours a day and seven days a week in an effort to vaccinate 100,000 healthcare and care home staff.
Care home residents and people aged over 80 are also in the first priority vaccination group, and health officials are continuing to examine ways to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in care homes in Northern Ireland.
– And how are things looking in Wales?
Frontline NHS and social care staff in Wales will receive the country’s first coronavirus vaccine from Tuesday.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said he hoped supplies of the Pfizer vaccine marked a “turning point in the pandemic” that would put Wales “on what is going to be a long path back to normality”.
Health minister Vaughan Gething said Wales is ready to deploy the vaccine in phases, starting with hospital sites and then community settings.
People will be sent appointments with details of the location where they will receive the vaccination, dependent on where they are on the schedule and risk.
Those receiving a jab will be given a credit card-sized NHS Wales immunisation card which will have the vaccine name, date of immunisation and batch number of each of the doses given, handwritten on them.
These will act as a reminder for a second dose and for the type of vaccine, and it will also give information about how to report side effects.