Military personnel have started setting up a mass vaccination center at a football and rugby stadium in Bristol, as Boris Johnson has said the new Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine could be ready for deployment in “the coming weeks”.
Members of the armed forces have been spotted at the city’s Ashton Gate Stadium, working from first light until dark on Monday to prepare the site.
As soon as a vaccine is approved, the plan is to use part of the stadium, home of Bristol City FC and the Bristol Bears rugby team, to administer it to thousands of people in the city and areas. neighboring North Somerset and the South. Gloucestershire.
NHS chiefs declined to give details of the site plans, but Bristol City Council confirmed: “Work at Ashton Gate is being coordinated by the military towards the NHS-led vaccination program.
The council said it provides public health advice and guidance, but the project is being led by the local NHS clinical commissioning group.
In an interview on BBC One’s Politics Live, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees added: “The point is that we are ready for whatever allows us to work for the safety of our people, so we will make sure that everything we have is in place.
The rise in cases in the South West of England, which so far has averted the worst of the Covid crisis, has led Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset to be placed at Level 3 after the English lockdown ends this week.
Johnson visited a production facility in North Wales on Monday, where details were unveiled on how he would be able to produce up to 350 million vials of Oxford vaccine in 12 months.
During his visit to the Wockardt factory, owned by the Indian company CP Pharmaceuticals, in Wrexham, the Prime Minister said: “If all goes well, this could be available in just a few weeks and it could, and I emphasize, could. to truly be salvation for mankind, these vaccines, not just this one, but obviously all of the vaccines that are currently in development.
The government has earmarked £ 50million production capacity over 18 months for CP Pharmaceuticals, which trades under the Wockardt name, and supplies generics to the NHS.
It said Monday it has the capacity to produce 4,000 vials per hour and is expected to go into production shortly in anticipation of the drug’s regulatory approval.
Unite union official Dave Griffiths said the Wrexham site had hired 40 people to keep up with the demand and planned to produce 150,000 vials per day, five days a week.
Details of how Operation Ashton Gate would work were laid out in a report to directors of a local health council on Friday.
The report said the immunization program was to be implemented through Mass Vaccination Centers (MVCs), community sites and a “traveling model” for nursing homes and people confined to the house.
It planned to deliver 75,000 to 110,000 vaccines per week to residents of Bristol and the two neighboring local communities from December 7 until April of next year.
The vaccines are expected to be administered 12 hours a day, seven days a week and £ 2.3million has been allocated to support the workforce and sites. The report warned that this was a “complex and evolving program”.
It is understood that personnel from all three armed forces are to be involved in setting up and assisting in the operation of the Ashton Gate site and others like it, and the football and rugby teams will continue to play. in the stadium because the hall can be cordoned off. from the rest of the land.
It is believed that other stadiums and sports venues in other parts of the country could be used as vaccination sites, with Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire and Epsom in Surrey both preparing to help.
Such sites have the advantage of large open spaces that can be easily converted, with good parking and good access. It is believed that there will be dozens of MVCs.
Asked about the preparations underway at Ashton Gate, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson replied that details would be presented “in due course”.
The NHS in Wales, meanwhile, has carried out a ‘far-reaching and successful test’ on the practical issues that need to be put in place once a vaccine is cleared.
Welsh Prime Minister Mark Drakeford said at a press conference in Cardiff on Monday: “It could be as early as this week and we will be ready for it. ”