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England preparing COVID vaccine roll-out plan

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England preparing COVID vaccine roll-out plan
Soldiers work at The Exhibition Centre, which has been set up as a testing centre as part of the mass COVID-19 testing, in Liverpool, November 6, 2020. (Reuters)

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LONDON – English doctors are grappling with the prospect of seven-day service, -75 degree Celsius freezers and vaccines known as “Talent” and “Courageous” as they prepare for an unprecedented logistical challenge: the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Health minister Matt Hancock has set a target for England’s National Health Service that it should be ready to administer vaccines by December 1, although he has said his central expectation is for the bulk of the roll-out to happen next year.

Any distribution of vaccines would also require approval from the country’s medical watchdog, the MHRA.

On Wednesday, NHS England medical director Stephen Powis confirmed that general practitioners (GPs), pharmacies and large-scale inoculation centres could all be involved in the vaccine roll-out, adding more details would be given in the coming days.

“There’s going to be some nationally organised vaccine immunisation centres, which will be large centres, probably run with military involved, etc. But GPs are well placed,” Steve Mowle, a practising GP and honorary treasurer of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told Reuters.

“The challenge of this task is even bigger than the flu immunisation programme. But I’m sure that GPs will have a very central role in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Germany is scouting trade fair halls and airport terminals as possible mass vaccination centres, while Italy plans to lean on its existing GP network. But in many countries, details of how the population will be inoculated are scarce.

A spokesman for Britain’s health ministry said that extra logistical expertise, transport arrangements and equipment had been put in place, the workforce had been expanded and 150 million pounds had been given to GP practices.

“An enormous amount of planning has taken place to ensure our health service stands ready to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said.

“We will publish further details on our deployment plans in due course.”

Although there is still a lack of clarity over some of the details of how doctors are expected to deliver the vaccines, they have been briefed on the broad outlines.

In the absence of trade names, the NHS uses codenames to refer to the two vaccine candidates that are expected to be the first available.  (Reuters)

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