Coronavirus: High street pharmacies start vaccine rollout as Boris Johnson promises 24/7 injections

In today's coronavirus news, updates on the vaccine programme in the UK and results from a study on former patients

AstraZeneca - Coronavirus: High street pharmacies start vaccine rollout as Boris Johnson wants 24/7 injections, study shows previous infection can build immunity

Six pharmacies in UK high street began administering COVID-19 vaccines to priority groups on Thursday.

Sites in Halifax, Macclesfield, Widnes, Guildford, Edgware and Telford have started offering appointments to people vulnerable to the virus who were invited by letter.

The number of chemists is expected to rise to 200 in the next two weeks, the BBC reported.

The UK has set out the goal to give the first dose of a vaccine – either the Oxford/AstraZeneca or the Pfizer/BioNTech – to 15mln people by mid-February.

As of Thursday, over 2.6mln care home residents and workers and healthcare staff had been injected with a vaccine.

On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs the country “will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can” and health secretary Matt Hancock should be announcing further details “in due course”.

Alongside the pharmacies, the vaccination sites network counts 233 hospitals, 1,000 GP surgeries and 50 dedicated centres.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca said it cannot speed up the biological process but it expects to supply tens of millions of doses in the first three months of 2021.

"We've released just over 1.1 million doses, to date, and we are scaling up as we've said very rapidly. And this will happen imminently, to releasing two million doses a week, we're absolutely on track to do that," Tom Keith-Roach, president of AstraZeneca UK, told parliament.

"We're scaling up to two million a week imminently, and certainly we hope to be there on or before the middle of February.”

Building up immunity

A new study shows that most people who have contracted the virus built immunity from the virus for at least five months.

However, experts warned that those who are protected against reinfection may still be able to carry the virus in their nose and throat and therefore have a risk of transmitting to others.

Public Health England has been regularly testing tens of thousands of health care workers across the UK since June for new COVID-19 infections as well as the presence of antibodies, which suggest people have been infected before.

“Even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections but there is still a risk that you could acquire an infection and transmit to others. Now more than ever it is vital we all stay at home to protect our health service and save lives,” said Professor Susan Hopkins, Senior Medical Advisor at Public Health England.

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