England has started its mass vaccination campaign, which aims to inoculate 13 million people by mid-February.
Repurposed sports and conference centers in Birmingham, Bristol, London, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Stevenage and Surrey have opened their doors to the 600,000 invitees notified over the weekend.
Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that thousands more care home residents, frontline health care workers and those over the age of 80 can now receive their first dose. Centers will be open between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. but “will absolutely go 24 hours a day” once vaccine stocks allow it, Zahawi said.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told the same program that the main limiting factor for now “is the number of vaccines available” and warned that this could be the case “for several months.”
Both Zahawi and Whitty defended the government’s plan to delay the vaccine’s required second dose, with both arguing that it was more important to give many people their first dose, providing them with some degree of immunity, than to prioritize the second dose.
“For every person who gets a second dose, someone else is not even getting their first dose,” said Whitty.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to give more details on the vaccination program at a press conference later on Monday.