Batches of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine have started arriving at hospitals ahead of the jab’s rollout on Monday.
Some 530,000 doses of the vaccine will be available for rollout on its first day, with vulnerable groups already identified as the priority for immunisation.
One of the first hospitals to take delivery of a batch on Saturday morning was the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, part of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Dr George Findlay, chief medical officer and deputy chief executive at the trust, said the vaccination programme gives NHS staff “more confidence” coming into work.
As it can be kept at normal fridge temperature, he said this vaccine is “much easier” to administer when compared with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which needs to be kept in specialist fridges at a temperature of around -70C.
Rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab began almost a month ago, with more than a million people having already received their first coronavirus jab.
Second doses of either vaccine will now take place within 12 weeks rather than the 21 days that was initially planned with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, following a change in guidance which aims to accelerate immunisation.
Hundreds of people are expected to be vaccinated per day at the Princess Royal Hospital site, with efficiency expected to increase after the first few days of the programme, according to Dr Findlay.
“We’ve got a delivery hub set up in the grounds of this hospital, so we’ve got the infrastructure there to invite people in for booked appointments,” he said.
“And we will make sure those booked appointments are full every day from Monday going forward.”
Among those to be vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab from next week will be vulnerable NHS staff and social care workers who are at risk.
“We started vaccinating on our other hospital site a few weeks ago, it’s been seen as a really positive step, something that gives staff more confidence to come to work,” Dr Findlay said.
“You only have to look at the statistics over the last 10 months about how many staff have suffered illness, or sadly lost their lives.
“This gives staff the confidence to come to work to be able to look after patients.”