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The NHS is opening its newest front in the fight against COVID-19 with the activation of the first seven NHS Vaccination Centres to jab people aged 80 and over, along with health and care staff, from today (11th January).

Capable of delivering thousands of the life-saving jabs each week, the seven large-scale sites will be followed by dozens more, NHS England has confirmed.

The seven Vaccination Centres opening this week are: Excel Centre in London (London), Ashton Gate in Bristol (South West), Epsom racecourse in Surrey (South East), Millennium Point in Birmingham (Midlands), Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England), Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester (North West), and The Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne (North East and Yorkshire).

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Hundreds more GP-led and hospital services are also due to open this week along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total to around 1,200.

The new NHS Vaccination Centres offer a convenient alternative to GP-led and hospital services, the national health service highlighters.

Letters are being sent out to more than 600,000 people aged 80 who live up to a 45-minute drive from one of the new centres, inviting them to book an appointment.

The centres are an additional option for people, who can book an appointment at one of the seven centres through the national booking service online or over the phone. If it is not convenient for them, they can instead be jabbed at one of their local vaccination centres in the coming weeks.

NHS England says that people should wait until they are invited to be vaccinated and is urging people not to call their GP but to use the booking line. If an appointment has already been offered by the GP, people can choose which appointment suits them best.

As well as offering additional options for the over-80s, the NHS Vaccine Centres will also help in the NHS’ drive to protect its own frontline staff as well as social care workers providing vital support in communities.

The new services will also be the first to deploy trained volunteers from both St John Ambulance and the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme alongside NHS staff, more than 80,000 of whom have completed the clinical training needed to administer vaccines so far.

Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS’ national medical director, said: “Increasing supplies means the NHS can open even more vaccination services and protect even more people this week.

“While my NHS colleagues are working hard to ensure we can offer vaccines to all of those who would benefit most over the next month, at the same time as providing care for everyone who needs it, we need the public to help us.

“Please don’t contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, we will contact you. When we do contact you, please attend your booked appointments. And whether you have had a vaccine or not, please continue to follow all the guidance to control the virus and save lives – that means staying at home as much as you can, and following the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance when you can’t.”

The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in the health service’s history, is being delivered as health service staff are treating record numbers of seriously ill patients with coronavirus, caused by rapidly rising infection numbers. This has sparked the UK CMOs to recommend that the UK’s COVID-19 alert level moves from level 4 to level 5.

NHS England says that the initial sites were chosen from those ready to vaccinate large numbers of people quickly to give a geographical spread covering as many people as possible.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock commented: “Through our vaccine delivery plan around two million people have already received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccines and these new large scale vaccination centres will help us accelerate the rollout even further.

“Alongside GPs, pharmacies, hospitals and care homes the new sites will offer vaccines to everyone in the top four priority cohorts, saving thousands of lives and helping us start to return to normal in the future.”

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