THE first Covid vaccines available at high street pharmacies are being given from today as the UK's jab rollout ramps up another gear.

Boots and Superdrug, as well as some community chemists, are now among those able to dish out the potentially life-saving jabs, the NHS has said.

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First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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Derek Mersh, 82, becomes one of the first people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at Superdrug in GuildfordCredit: PA:Press Association
First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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The first six pharmacies to give out the Covid vaccines

Six stores, including Boots in Halifax, West Yorks, and Superdrug in Guildford, Surrey, were the first to give out jabs from today.

Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, north London, Woodside Pharmacy in Telford and Appleton Village pharmacy in Widnes, have also started their roll out.

Up to 70 more high street pharmacies will start taking bookings for next week, while more than 200 community chemists are in the pipeline for the end of the month, the NHS said, as more supplies of the jabs arrive.

The stores have been picked because they are capable of delivering large volumes of the medicine and allow for social distancing inside.

They are also geographically spread across the country, however some regions have missed out on the initial wave of pharmacy-led services.

Two additional sites in Huddersfield and Gloucester are planning to open in the coming weeks.

People will be invited by letter to get their vaccine, which is being rolled out to the population through priority ranking.

Once they have received their letter, they can log on to the NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Booking Service, where they will have a choice between a vaccination centre or a pharmacy.

First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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Henry William Rice, 95, waits to receive his jab at Superdrug in GuildfordCredit: www.mattjalexander.com
First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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Brenda Clegg, 92, receiving a dose of the vaccine at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax, West YorkshireCredit: PA:Press Association
First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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People seen waiting for their vaccine early this morning at Cullimore chemist in Edgware, north LondonCredit: ISO Images
First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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People at at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire, waiting for the first Covid vaccinationsCredit: PA:Press Association

How do you get your vaccine?

Letters sent to those who qualify to have the vaccine give details on how to book your jab in each area.

Many will be expecting their letter if they know they are at high risk.

But the NHS says you might not receive your letter straight away.

You also need to be registered with a GP surgery in England. You can register with a GP if you do not have one.

The letters explain how the slots can be booked through the national booking service online or over the phone.

To start the booking process you can follow the link sent to you on your letter.

It will not be possible to use the NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Booking Service if you have not received an invitation letter.

Boots managing director Seb James said: "As we begin vaccinations at our Halifax pharmacy today, we are incredibly proud to support the NHS during this extraordinary time.

"Like with Covid-19 testing, we believe Boots can play a key role in the vaccination programme – our pharmacists are experts in vaccination programmes and have a trusted role at the heart of our local communities.

"Pharmacies are extremely well placed to support the roll out of this vaccine quickly and safely, and we stand ready to do much more.

"We stand ready to do more to support the NHS and the government to accelerate its roll-out."

Boots has already begun specialist training with pharmacists on the handling and administering of the Covid-19 vaccine.

First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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Peter Cast, 87, from Ashtead, is given the vaccine at Superdrug in GuilfordCredit: PA:Press Association
First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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Boots in Halifax takes its first delivery of Covid vaccinesCredit: PA:Press Association

Halifax store manager Natasha Eastwood said: "I'm thrilled that our pharmacy has been selected to be at the forefront of the nation's vaccination efforts, and I'm grateful to our entire team who have been working around the clock to set up our new vaccination site.

"Pharmacies like ours are at the very heart of their local community, offering a trusted team and location that our patients are familiar and comfortable with to be vaccinated."

Andrew Hodgson, who owns Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, described the rush to set up a vaccination site as "a whirlwind".

He gave the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab to 82-year-old Robert Salt at 8am on Thursday morning.

"It is probably the biggest single day of my career," Mr Hodgson said.

He added: "It's been a bit of a whirlwind. We've set this up in three or four weeks from scratch.

"The whole team is very excited to be part of the roll-out."

Mr Hodgson said he knew four generations of some of the families who use the pharmacy.

"I feel close to the people who are getting vaccinated and it is a personal experience for them," he said.

First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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Patients wait in a socially distanced line ahead of receiving an injection of the Covid-19 vaccination at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, CheshireCredit: PA:Press Association

Mr Salt said it was "wonderful" to have received his first dose, adding: "There was a little trepidation but it's good, everything has gone fine today, apart from the weather."

He said he felt relieved, but added he still had to be careful as his wife was still waiting for a vaccine appointment because she is under 80.

"I'm healthy but you know you're in the age range where you're very vulnerable," Mr Salt said.

"The situation with the death rates going up the way they have done is pretty frightening."

Peter Cast, 87, from Ashtead in Surrey, was one of the first to receive the vaccine at Superdrug in Guildford.

"The fact that we have moved from the virus through the scientific processes of research to a possible answer with a vaccine is absolutely miraculous, and more particularly the time over which it has happened," he said.

"I'm very conscious that a hundred years ago my mother lost a brother to the flu virus and I have always been conscious of its danger. So I think the step forward that the science and the drug manufacturers have made over the last 12 months is astonishing."

Christine Zemba, lead pharmacist at the branch, urged anyone who has been contacted to arrange a vaccine appointment at a pharmacy to attend.

"Community pharmacies are very skilled in giving mass vaccinations such as flu.

"We are very accessible to the public and we can also rely on our vast clinical knowledge – even though this is a new vaccine – to be able to give a safe and effective service," she said.

Michael Henry, healthcare director at Superdrug, said plans were under way to open vaccination sites in stores in Manchester, Leeds, Basingstoke and Bristol operating 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

He said: "I believe it is critically important that everyone plays their part in supporting the national effort against Covid-19 and ensuring that we get the country and the economy back on track as soon as possible."

RAMPED UP

The Government aims to have vaccinated all people in the four most vulnerable groups by the middle of next month.

Those who are eligible for a vaccine will be contacted and invited to make an appointment through a new national booking service.

This gives them the option of having a vaccine at a pharmacy or in a GP-led vaccination centre.

By the end of the month more than 200 community chemists with capacity for 1,000 doses a week will be able to give vaccines, according to NHS England.

The pharmacies join the 200 hospitals, around 800 GP clinics and seven mass vaccination centres where jabs are already being handed out.

All together there are already more than 1,000 vaccination sites across the country.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “fantastic” that vaccinations would be available on the high street.

He said: “Pharmacies sit at the heart of local communities and will make a big difference to our rollout programme by providing even more local, convenient places for those that are eligible to get their jab.

First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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Pharmacist Rae Hynes unboxing doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax, West YorkshireCredit: PA:Press Association
First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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Boots in Halifax is one of the first stores to roll out the vaccineCredit: PA:Press Association

“Pharmacists have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, often acting as the first port of call for medical advice – and often staying open when all around have closed.

“I want to extend my thanks to every pharmacy for their efforts to support the national response to the pandemic and keep people safe.”

High street pharmacists are already involved with doling out flu vaccines every year.

Dr Bruce Warner, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer, said pharmacists will play "a vital role in delivering the life-saving jabs to those in their communities".

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi echoed his thoughts and said: "I am really pleased to see them coming on stream to help with the national vaccine roll-out effort.”

The NHS has been tasked with the largest vaccination programme in history.

And it has just 39 days to reach the Government's target of vaccinating 13.5 million of the most vulnerable Brits by mid February.

These top priority groups, set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), include the over 80s, care home residents and their carers, NHS staff, those over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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This map reveals coronavirus vaccines sites across the UK, as more Brits gear up to have the jab.
First Covid vaccines are given at Boots and Superdrug as jab rollout ramps up another gear – see where you can get it

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The pharmacies join the 200 hospitals, around 800 GP clinics and seven mass vaccination centres (pictured) where jabs are already being handed out

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So far, three vaccines have been approved for use in the UK.

Around 2.4 million people in the UK have received their first dose – the large majority with the Pfizer jab which was approved in early December.

A vaccine developed by Oxford, but manufactured by AstraZeneca, is now also being rolled out in the UK after approval at the end of December.

And Moderna's vaccine was approved last week. However supplies won't be available until the spring.

The Oxford vaccine was rolled out to GP-led services from last week. It is easier to transport and get to care home residents, too.

All adults will be offered a Covid vaccine by the autumn, the Health Secretary has vowed.

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THE first Covid vaccines available at high street pharmacies are being given from today as the UK's jab rollout ramps up another gear.