Downing Street pledges to bring more community pharmacies to vaccine delivery programme

Downing Street has promised to roll out the coronavirus vaccine delivery programme to more community pharmacies as it was revealed jabs could be given 24 hours a day if supplies allowed.

Nadhim Zahawi, the minister in charge of vaccine deployment, said that most people currently had “about a 45-minute drive” or less to a vaccination centre, but his aim was that no-one in the UK was “more than a 10-mile radius”.

And he told Times Radio that he wanted to reach the point where people could simply walk into their community pharmacy or local GP to receive a vaccine.

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Rita Passey receives an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS vaccine centre that has been set up at the Millennium Point centre in Birmingham. The centre is one of the seven mass vaccination centres now opened to the general public as the government continues to ramp up the vaccination programme against Covid-19. Photo OA

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing this afternoon that they would be looking to bring more than the initial 200 pharmacies on board.

He said: “I think we've said previously we will use more community pharmacies, but as I’ve said we will continue to ramp up the vaccination program, which means using more GPs, more pharmacies, more mass vaccinations centres, as we move through the programme.”

And Mr Zahawi said the drive could even move to 24 hours a day if necessary.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we need to go to 24-hour work we will absolutely go 24 hours a day to make sure we vaccinate as quickly as we can.”

Mr Zahawi also suggested that police officers, teachers and other critical workers will be in the “highest category of phase two” of the vaccine rollout.

Phase one includes the clinically vulnerable, the elderly and NHS and social care workers.

Meanwhile Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said the vaccine rollout offered hope that lockdown restrictions could be lifted in the coming months, but described the current UK death rate as “appalling”.

During a BBC phone-in on the current high case rates, he said: “I don’t think we’re yet at the peak, I’m afraid.

“I think we will be at the peak if everybody can double down and absolutely minimise their contacts.

“The point of the lockdown is to bring that forward, but it only works if everyone really thinks about every individual interaction they have and try and minimise them.”

Prof Whitty said the new variant of coronavirus was causing a “significant problem”, telling BBC Breakfast: “We will get through together, but at this point in time we’re at the worst point in the epidemic for the UK.”