Everyone in the country will be within 10 miles of their nearest vaccination centre, with the army drafted in to ensure delivery of hundreds of thousands of jabs a day, Boris Johnson has pledged.
The Prime Minister said the new target would be met by the end of next week, as the military’s lead on vaccines promised to get “jabs in arms, not shelves”.
More than 1,000 GP centres, 223 hospital sites and seven mass vaccination centres are due to open by next week, as part of efforts to hasten the rollout.
The army has been drafted in to assist with logistics as medics complain of delays receiving deliveries.
On Thursday, the Health Secretary was left embarrassed when he arrived at a London surgery to promote the programme’s rollout, only to find deliveries had failed to materialise. Meanwhile council leaders in Birmingham said the city was about to run out of supplies.
As Thursday’s death toll reached 1,162 (the highest since April last year) the Prime Minister insisted that targets to vaccinate more than 14 million people by next month will be hit.
Mr Johnson said the army had been drafted in to use "battle preparation techniques" to ensure hundreds of thousands of jabs can be delivered daily from next Friday.
Boris Johnson also said Britain was facing “a national challenge on a scale like nothing we have seen before".
The new plans would mean all care home residents should receive their first jab by the end of the month, he said.
As well as assisting with distribution of vaccines, the military has placed 21 roving teams on standby, comprised of army medics ready to travel anywhere in England to deliver vaccines quickly.
Meanwhile, GPs were issued with new guidance in a bid to speed up the programme’s rollout.
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The advice from NHS England, seen by The Telegraph, suggests four-person teams could administer more than 100 jabs an hour. And it says there is no need to keep patients under observation for 15 minutes if they have been given the “Oxford” vaccine.
At a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson pledged: “It is our plan that everyone should have a vaccination available within a radius of 10 miles,” promising the capacity to deliver hundreds of thousands of vaccines per day by January 15.
He said he had “no doubt” that Britain would be able to vaccinate the four key priority groups – including everyone over 70 – by February 15.
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On Thursday, figures showed the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 between December 24 and 30 increased by almost a quarter on the previous week.
The total of 311,372 positive cases is the highest weekly total since the NHS Test and Trace programme began in May.
Ministers warned the death toll is “set to increase” given the high rates of infections and hospital admissions. Health minister Lord Bethell said rising infection levels in the last few weeks would mean a rise in deaths “as sure as night follows day".
Brigadier Phil Prosser, the military lead on vaccines, has pledged to “get jabs in arms, not on shelves”. He said NHS work so far, to establish 769 vaccine sites and administer 1.26 million doses in England was already the “equivalent of setting up a major supermarket chain in less than a month”.
Brigadier Phil Prosser arrives at 10 Downing Street, to join PM Boris Johnson at a press conference to update the public on the Covid-19 vaccination campaigns
Credit: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu/Getty Images
Mr Johnson admitted the rollout has hit stumbling blocks. “Of course in the early phases there is going to be lumpiness and bumpiness in the distribution,” he said.
"Today it may be that some GPs aren’t getting the consignments expected. Other GPs are doing an incredible job getting jabs into people’s arms,” he said.
The Ministry of Defence has prepared a “reserve” taskforce of 1,500 personnel who will be available to fill in at jab centres that require extra staff in the event their own vaccinators fall ill.
So far, the NHS has made a formal request, via the Military Aid to the Civil Authority (Maca) convention, for 133 personnel, split into 21 teams, to take part in the vaccine programme.
They will be ready to begin administering jabs in arms from January 11, working in six-man teams.
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Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has also started to scale up the taskforce, with plans for 250 six-man teams to be placed at high readiness in case the jab programme needs more support.
Fears of vaccine centre staff falling ill with coronavirus, flu, or the winter vomiting bug led to the creation of the reserve task force, which will be composed only of personnel with medical qualifications.
In addition to the military vaccinators, two Armed Forces planners are currently seconded to support the vaccine task force director and 20 personnel are assisting with regional vaccine planning, end-to-end logistics and delivery.
Over 5,000 Armed Forces personnel are currently deployed to support the Government’s coronavirus response across the UK as part of Operation Rescript.
They are working on 70 different tasks, including testing in schools and wider communities.