Will I get a phone call? Key questions as Covid vaccines arrive at UK hubs

Councils and public health officials in Norfolk are gearing up for the potential roll-out of a coron

Councils and public health officials in Norfolk are gearing up for the potential roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine. Picture: BioNTech SE 2020/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine will begin this week in the UK's largest-scale immunisation programme.

NHS staff have been working through the weekend to prepare for the launch, but what does that entail and what can people expect in the next few days?

- When did the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arrive and where are they?

The delivery of the first batch of vaccine vials arrived from Belgium on Thursday, with rollout starting on Tuesday.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, as people need to receive two doses.

There are 800,000 doses in the first tranche, meaning that 400,000 people will be vaccinated initially.

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The vaccines have been stored in undisclosed secure locations to ensure the security of the vaccine and of those storing and delivering it.

- Are all the vaccines in the right place and ready for the first day of rollout?

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Doses have already been arriving at vaccine hubs in preparation for Tuesday, but it is not known when exactly all 50 hubs in England will receive vaccine doses, as they are starting to administer the jab at different times and deliveries are expected to happen throughout the week.

- How are the vaccines stored?

The vaccine needs storage temperatures of minus 70C to minus 80C.

Public Health England said it has secured 58 specialised Twin Guard ultra-low temperature freezers which provide sufficient storage for approximately five million doses of potential Covid-19 vaccines which require ultra-low temperature storage.

- Where exactly will vaccines be administered?

Jabs will be administered at dozens of hospital hubs from Tuesday - with people aged 80 and over, care home workers and NHS workers who are at higher risk the first to receive the vaccine.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) will be among the first 50 hospitals to administer the jab. 

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said hospitals in England have identified an appropriate place on their estate where they can conduct the vaccinations.

He said the ideal scenario is that this place is close to a cark park and separate from any other clinical area where there might be a risk of Covid-19 infection.

- Will I be contacted if I am one of the first to receive it?

Mr Hopson said staff have been identifying people in the key target groups and lists have been passed to appointment bookers who have been making phone calls to arrange appointments.

He said some hospitals are focusing on people who are due to come in for an outpatient appointment, or indeed those who are currently receiving care in hospital.

Mr Hopson said hospitals are also talking to care homes which have been asked to provide lists of their workers.

- What will the appointment involve?

When a person arrives they will be registered and be prescribed the vaccine.

A computer system will issue an email or a letter to the patient and their GP saying they have had the vaccine and confirming a follow-up date for three weeks later when they will get the second dose.

The jab is typically delivered by an injection in the shoulder.

- Should everyone aged 80 and over expect a phone call this week?

No. Mr Hopson said people should not get anxious or worried if they do not receive a call or a letter, adding that the vast majority of people will not be vaccinated until early 2021.

He anticipates that there will be communications in the coming weeks telling people how quickly they are getting through those who are over 80.

- Are care home residents not a priority?

They are indeed. They are at the very top of the priority list but there are challenges with getting the jab to them.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used.

The vaccine boxes containing 975 doses will need to be split so that they can be taken to care homes.
Mr Hopson said this will get going in about a week's time and will be led by primary care networks.

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