Boris Johnson: 'Battle preparation techniques' to be used in 'unprecedented national effort' to vaccinate against coronavirus

Every care home resident will be offered a coronavirus vaccine by the end of January, the Prime Minister has pledged, as he said the Army would use “battle preparation techniques” to distribute the jab across the UK.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 5:54 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th January 2021, 5:58 pm

Speaking from Downing Street this evening, Boris Johnson said the Government, NHS, and Armed forces are “truly throwing everything” at getting as many vaccines into arms as possible.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned earlier in the day that a vaccine may need to be given every six months to be effective - but he believed this national lockdown would be the last of its kind.

Already the PM has pledged to vaccinate 15m of the most vulnerable people in the UK by February 15, and 1.5m people have already received the jab.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Downing Street, London. Photo: PA

And tonight he said: “By the end of the week there will be over 1,000 GP-led sites providing vaccines, 223 hospital sites, seven giant vaccination centres, and the first wave of 200 community pharmacies.

“If all goes well, these together should have the capacity to deliver hundreds of thousands of vaccines per day by January 15, and it is our plan that everyone should have a vaccination available with a radius of 10 miles.”

He said: “Let’s be clear, this is a national challenge on a scale like nothing we’ve seen before, and it will require an unprecedented national effort.

“Of course, there will be difficulties, appointments will be changed but … the army is working hand in glove with the NHS and local councils to set up our vaccine network and using battle preparation techniques to help us keep up the pace.”

But he added “battle preparation techniques” had been drawn up between the NHS, Armed Forces and local councils to make the system work.

However some GP surgeries are facing issues getting the coronavirus vaccine, which can be “demoralising” for staff and “confusing and disappointing for patients”, the Royal College of GPs has said.

Its chair, Professor Martin Marshall, said: “There still appear to be some issues with delivery of vaccine supply to some surgeries. We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge that NHS England is facing getting supplies to vaccine sites across the country.

“What’s important is that communication to practices about when they will receive a supply of vaccine is clear and reliable, with as much notice as possible – and that any last-minute changes of plan are minimised.

“Preparing for a vaccination clinic is no easy feat, it involves meticulous planning. Having to change these plans with little notice is frustrating and demoralising for GP teams – not to mention confusing and disappointing for patients.

“A vaccination programme being delivered at this pace and scale is bound to face teething problems. It’s vital that GPs and their teams on the ground, running vaccination clinics, are communicated with clearly and listened to – and that any concerns they have about the rollout taken seriously, so that they can be addressed.”

While Mr Hancock told MPs: “I anticipate we will probably need to revaccinate because we don’t know the longevity of the protection from these vaccines.

“We don’t know how frequently it will be, but it might need to be every six months, it might need to be every year.”

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens warned of the “incredibly serious situation” in the country’s hospitals.

During the Downing Street press conference, he said: “We’ve got 50 per cent more coronavirus patients in our hospitals than we had at the peak of the April first wave, and that is true in every region in the country.”

He said 10,000 more people had gone into hospitals with coronavirus since Christmas Day, and added: “That’s the equivalent of filling 20 acute hospitals with extra coronavirus patients.”

And the traditional winter pressures on the NHS meant that while in April for every coronavirus patient, there were another two patients in hospital with other conditions, there were now three other patients for every person with Covid, putting extra pressure on staff.

It comes as a hospital in Kent may have to start refusing critical care after it had become overwhelmed.

The Health Service Journal reported that Darent Valley Hospital, near Dartford in Kent, declared it was at “CRITCON level four”, which is NHS guidance means “resources overwhelmed, possibility of triage by resource (non-clinical refusal or withdrawal of critical care due to resource limitation)”.

Speaking earlier in the day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “impossible” to put a percentage on the absolute risk of the NHS being overwhelmed in the next two weeks.

He told MPs: “It’s impossible to put a number on it, and I don’t mean that just as a cop-out.”

He said that as pressure on the NHS grows “it is more stretched in delivering the services that people need” and pointed to the cancelling of routine elective procedures in the second peak, and he said such actions demonstrate the pressure hospitals are under.

He told MPs: “Obviously we try to minimise that but it has happened elsewhere in the second peak, and of course in the first peak as well.

“It is an indication of the degree of pressure that London hospitals are under. So it’s a big challenge and it reiterates the central importance of people following the lockdown and restricting as much as possible the contact they have with other people.”