Royal Preston Hospital to serve as Covid mass vaccination centre in coming weeks

Royal Preston Hospital will be among the first in the UK to receive deliveries of the approved Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine and could begin vaccinating staff next week.

By Matthew Calderbank
Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 10:43 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 12:02 pm

The hospital is expected to take receipt of the first stock of the vaccine as early as Monday (December 7), ahead of the UK's mass vaccination programme.

Staff will be expected to take the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine before Christmas, with a second dose to be administered 28 days later in January.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has remained tight-lipped about its role in the vaccination programme and declined to say whether staff vaccination will be compulsory or not.

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Staff at Royal Preston Hospital and Blackpool Victoria Hospital will be among the first NHS staff in the UK to get the Pfizer and BioNTech jab when it is rolled-out next week

All communications around the vaccination are being handled by NHS England, it said.

But the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that RPH will serve as a regional 'vaccine hub' and will play a pivotal role in Lancashire's mass vaccination roll-out in the coming months.

The hospital was told in October to prepare for a staff vaccination programme in mid-December and has already taken delivery of special cold storage units to accommodate the Pfizer vaccine, which has to be kept at a temperature of around - 80C.

The news comes as the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Covid-19 vaccine from US and German-owned Pfizer/BioNTech. It has yet to be approved by regulators in the EU and US.

Royal Preston Hospital will be among the first in the UK to receive deliveries of the approved Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine

The move has paved the way for mass vaccination to start as soon as next week, with facilities at Royal Preston Hospital already set up and waiting to receive the vaccine.

The Government has said the issues in transporting the Pfizer vaccine, which requires cold storage, meant people would have to travel to a central hub to receive their jab, with RPH chosen as one of two sites in Lancashire. Blackpool Victoria Hospital will serve as the county's other 'vaccine hub'.

A roll-out to local GP practices and vaccination centres is expected to follow in the coming months.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses in total - enough for 20 million people - with 800,000 of those due to arrive in the UK from Belgium by next week.

Blackpool Victoria Hospital will serve as one of two 'vaccine hubs' in Lancashire to deliver the approved Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech

But this morning, Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, told the BBC that the first shipment of the vaccine could arrive even sooner.

"We currently expect to receive it very, very shortly in the UK, and I do mean hours, not days," said the professor.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises ministers, has published its vaccine priority list, which you can view here.

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But there are concerns that some of the UK's most vulnerable in care homes will not be part of the first wave of the vaccine's roll-out.

Liam Smeeth, from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the British regulator that has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, said getting the vaccine to care homes presents a 'logistical challenge'.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, he said: "Yes, I think you’re right (that care homes are unlikely to be part of the first wave of vaccine roll-outs).

"The logistics are going to have to be based around what we can achieve.

"There are problems around getting them potentially a vaccine that needs to be stored at -80C as quickly as we would like to see, and we’re going to need to adapt the strategy around the vaccines that are available.

"Hopefully other vaccines will be coming on licence and approved as safe with time and we will be able to vaccinate the wider groups that are currently recommended.

"That’s very much work in hand, but at the moment the plan is that we will use mass vaccination centres."

He added: "But it may be possible to get the care home staff to be immunised within a local hospital setting."

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has declined to comment.

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