Vaccination centres ‘are safe’ – NHS chief

A top NHS official has assured the public that mass vaccination centres are “safe” as he encouraged people to take up the offer of a vaccine.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said the centres are set up to get people vaccinated as “efficiently and quickly as possible”.

The comments come as the mass vaccination programme was expanded to include those over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

And new vaccination centres have been opened at a rugby ground, a racecourse and a cathedral.

There are now hundreds of vaccination sites delivering vaccines to the most vulnerable at a pace.

Prof Powis told BBC Breakfast: “The vaccine centres are all set up to be safe, they’re all set up to maintain social distancing, and of course to get people vaccinated as efficiently and as quickly as possible.

“The centres are set up to make sure that people can feel assured they can come here and get the vaccine safely.

“I would really encourage everybody, including the clinically vulnerable, to get the vaccine – that’s the best way of keeping yourself safe from Covid.”

He said that the expansion of the vaccination programme means that an additional five million people will now be eligible for a Covid-19 jab.

But he warned that the mass vaccine programme will not have an impact on hospital admissions or death rates until “well into February”.

“I don’t think the NHS has ever been under such pressure in any winter, but our staff are responding magnificently,” he added.

“It’s really going to be tough over the next couple of weeks and I would implore everybody to reduce the chance of transmitting the virus.”

Meanwhile, Prof Powis said he was “confident” everyone who had their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine would get their second.

He told Good Morning Britain: “We’ve been planning this, this change, this extension in the time of the second dose (to) 12 weeks, and I’m confident that those supplies will be there so that everybody who’s had their first dose gets their second dose.”

And he said that it was likely that there may need to be “frequent, maybe annual” vaccination programmes to deal with new variants of Covid-19.

“I think it’s perfectly possible that over time the Covid vaccine will need to be adapted from year to year to deal with new strains,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“The good news is that we’re using new technology with these new vaccines and that can be done very quickly.

“So yes, it is likely that there may have to be frequent, maybe annual – like flu vaccine programmes – which will deal with these new variants, but it’s a bit too early to be absolutely sure yet.”

– The new vaccination sites opening on January 18 include: Bournemouth International Centre; Taunton Racecourse; Blackburn Cathedral; Salt Hill Activity Centre in Slough; the food court of the Castle Quarter shopping centre in Norwich and St Helens Rugby Ground in Merseyside.