Boots and Superdrug started handing out coronavirus vaccines this morning after No10 finally turned to main drag to fulfill a promise to immunize nearly 14 million people by mid-February.
MailOnline announced this week that the Boots business in Halifax and Superdrug's Guildford, Surrey office are joining the first wave of High Street chemists to join the national effort.
The chains are among the six pharmacies across England to be converted into Covid hubs this morning and can deliver hundreds of puffs every day between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Vaccines are also dispensed at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire, Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, North London, Woodside Pharmacy in Telford, Shropshire and Appleton Village Pharmacy in Widnes, Cheshire.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the move was "fantastic" and "will make a huge difference" when it comes to pushing the national stitch program forward.
But with just one month left to vaccinate 13.9 million people, No10 is under pressure to use more of England's 11,500 pharmacies that can deliver "millions" of puffs in that time.
Independent chemists who have been begging for help for months said they were "concerned" that the 13.9m target would be missed as only 2.5m had been hit so far.
Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told MailOnline: & # 39; We're relieved to see that six designated pharmacies this week have been given the opportunity to give the Covid-19 vaccine, and we're 100 Percent determined to help NHS England is meeting all challenges so that many more pharmacies in the community can play their part.
& # 39; However, since we haven't seen the current vaccination counts yet, we are concerned that the 13.9 million target by mid-February may not be achieved unless many more of the country's accessible pharmacies that are reliable healthcare providers, are able to offer the vaccine. We want to continue working with the government so that this vital vaccine can reach all communities, much sooner than it is now. & # 39;
Brenda Clegg, 92, receives a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from pharmacist Rae Hynes at Boots Pharmacy in Halifax, West Yorkshire
Patricia Main, 75, receives a dose of the Oxford / AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from pharmacist Bhavika Mistry at Boots pharmacy in Halifax.
The Covid-19 vaccination center at Boots Pharmacy in Halifax was one of the first waves of pharmacies to be shut down in support of the national effort
Pharmacist Andrew Hudson gives Robert Salt, 82, a dose of the coronavirus vaccine at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire.
Andrews Pharmacy was among the six chemists on Main Street who started handing out doses of the puffs this morning
Those eligible for a Covid vaccine will be contacted and asked to make an appointment through a new national booking service. This gives them the option of getting vaccinated at their local pharmacy or at a vaccination center run by a general practitioner.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs that distribution "will be 24/7 as soon as possible," but said the supply of cans remained the main sticking point. The pharmacies are currently operating for 12 hours.
The six pharmacies were chosen because they can supply large quantities of the vaccine and enable social distancing, the government says. Mr. Hancock added, "Pharmacies are at the heart of the local communities and will make a huge difference to our rollout program by providing even more local, convenient locations for those eligible to get their prick."
By the end of the month, more than 200 chemists in the community can deliver vaccines with a capacity of 1,000 doses per week, according to NHS England. The pharmacies join the 200 hospitals, around 800 general medicine clinics and seven mass vaccination centers, where shocks are already being distributed.
The expanded vaccination service in England comes as the daily reported death toll in Britain hit a new high on Wednesday. 1,564 deaths were recorded within 28 days of a positive test.
The latest figures say the dire milestone of more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the UK has now been exceeded, according to official figures.
The prime minister warned that if coronavirus rates are not brought under control, hospitals' intensive care units will be overwhelmed. The latest official figures show that more than 36,000 people are hospitalized with coronavirus, including nearly 3,500 on ventilation.
He said to the MPs: “If you ask me when we think the ICU capacity is likely to be exceeded, I cannot predict that.
"But all I can say is that the risk is very great and we need to keep the pressure off the NHS. The only way to do this is to follow the current lockdown."
Mr Johnson told the Commons Liaison Committee that "the situation in the NHS is indeed very, very difficult" and "the burden on the staff is enormous".
The Scottish government released a 16-page document setting out how to vaccinate 4.5 million people by the end of February, including 400,000 per week.
It scheduled the supply of vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna from early April, which are expected to be received every week.
This angered ministers in London with a warning from a high-level government source: “Publishing figures like these risks putting suppliers from other countries under pressure.
"These vaccines are a finite resource, and as we said, supply is the limiting step."
Amid warnings of struggling hospitals, the top government scientist warned the country of a "fairly bleak period" of deaths that will not "decrease rapidly".
Senior Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance told ITV's Peston program, “The daily numbers are jumping a bit, but I think we're in a position now – if you look at the number of infections we've had in the past Had weeks and what this is like I don't think they're going to fall very quickly – I'm afraid we are in a period of high death rates that will last a few more weeks.
“It's not going to go down quickly, even if the measures in place start now to reduce the number of infections.
"So we're having a pretty dark time, I'm afraid."
In his two-hour questioning by a committee of MPs, the Prime Minister also admitted concerns about a new strain of coronavirus from Brazil, but did not promise a travel ban for the South American country.
"We have already taken tough measures to protect this country from new infections from abroad," he said.
"We are taking steps to do this in relation to the Brazilian variant."
Meanwhile, a new study found that Covid infection offers some immunity for at least five months, but people may still carry and transmit the virus.
The first report from Public Health England's Siren study found that antibodies from previous infections provided 83% protection against re-infection for at least five months.
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