High street pharmacies to start vaccines as death toll tops 100,000

High street pharmacies will begin rolling out Covid vaccines, as the virus death toll across the UK climbed above 100,000.

Boots and Superdrug branches will be among the six stores across the country which will be able to administer the jabs from Thursday while the Government aims to hit its target of vaccinating all people in the four most vulnerable groups by the middle of next month.

Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, north London, Woodside Pharmacy in Telford and Appleton Village pharmacy in Widnes will be in the first group to hand out the injections, alongside Boots in Halifax, and Superdrug in Guildford.

Boris Johnson also told Prime Minister’s Questions that distribution “will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can” but said supply of doses remained the main barrier.

The expanded vaccination service comes as the daily reported death toll reached a new high on Wednesday, with 1,564 fatalities recorded within 28 days of a positive test.

The new milestone pushed the total of fatalities in the UK over 100,000 according to official data, and the Prime Minister warned that hospital intensive care units (ICUs) face being overwhelmed unless coronavirus rates are brought under control.

The latest official figures on the coronavirus dashboard show more than 36,000 people are in hospital with coronavirus, including almost 3,500 on ventilation.

Boris Johnson told MPs: “If you ask me when do we think that the ICU capacity is likely to be overtopped, I can’t give you a prediction for that.

“But all I can say is that the risk is very substantial and we have to keep the pressure off the NHS and the only way to do that is to follow the current lockdown.”

Mr Johnson told the Commons Liaison Committee that “the situation is very, very tough indeed in the NHS” and “the strain is colossal” on staff.

Amid the warnings of struggling hospitals, the Government’s top scientist also warned that the country is “in for a pretty grim period” of deaths which will not “reduce quickly”.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told ITV’s Peston programme: “The daily numbers jump around a bit but I think we are in a position now – when you look at the number of infections we’ve had over the past few weeks and how this is likely to continue, so I don’t think they’re going to drop very quickly – that I’m afraid we’re in a period of high death numbers that’s going to carry on for some weeks.

“It’s not going to come down quickly even if the measures that are in place now start to reduce the infection numbers.

“So we’re in for a pretty grim period, I’m afraid.”

In his two-hour questioning from a committee of MPs, the Prime Minister also acknowledged concerns about a new strain of coronavirus from Brazil, however stopped short of promising a travel ban on the South American country.

“We already have tough measures… to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad,” he said.

“We are taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazilian variant.”

Meanwhile, a new study has found that Covid infection provides some immunity for at least five months, but people may still carry and transmit the virus.

The first report from Public Health England’s (PHE) Siren study found that antibodies from past infection provide 83% protection against reinfection for at least five months.

This suggests that people who contracted the disease in the first wave may now be vulnerable to catching it again.

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