Every elderly care home resident should be offered a coronavirus vaccine by the end of this month, Boris Johnson said.
Speaking at a press conference this evening, he said the vaccine roll-out was ‘a national challenge on a scale like nothing we have seen before’, and the NHS and councils would work with the Army to organise it.
Mr Johnson said 1,26 million people had now been vaccinated in England, with 113,000 in Scotland, 49,000 in Wales and 46,000 in Northern Ireland.
He said: ‘It’s thanks to the arrival of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine which can be stored at room temperature that we can accelerate the pace of vaccination in care homes.
‘We are using that vaccine in care homes for the first time today and by the end of the month we hope to have offered every elderly care home resident a vaccine’.
He said the vaccination programme will require ‘an unprecedented national effort and of course there will be difficulties’.
A full deployment plan will be published on Monday.
Earlier this week, the prime minister set out a target that everyone in key groups should be offered a slot for vaccination by February 15.
That involves over 12 million people in England and 15 million in the UK, including older care home residents and staff, everyone 70 or over, all frontline NHS and care staff and all those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
Mr Johnson said: ‘Just to remind you of the importance of these groups for fighting the disease, they account for 88% of all those who have sadly lost their lives.’
He said: ‘I want to thank you, the British public for coming forward to be vaccinated in the numbers that you have, still greater than all the countries of Europe put together, and yes of course we are in a race against time, but I can assure you that we are doing everything we can to vaccinate as many people as possible across our whole United Kingdom.’
Mr Johnson also discussed new treatments for coronavirus that have just passed clinical trials and will ‘shortly be on everybody’s lips’, in particular Tocilizumab and Sarilumab, ‘which have been found to reduce the risk of death for critically ill patients by almost a quarter and they cut time spent in intensive care by as much as ten days’.
These drugs will be available through the NHS with immediate effect, ‘potentially saving thousands of lives’, he said.
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