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UK charities join forces to boost COVID vaccine drive

LaToya Harding
·3-min read
Pharmacy staff members prepare COVID-19 vaccines, at STEAM Museum, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Swindon, Britain, January 21, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
The organisations, which include The British Heart Foundation, Asthma UK, MacMillan Cancer Support and The Sickle Cell Society, will help promote access to key advice and information on vaccines. Photo: Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Sixteen UK charities have formed a new partnership in a bid to encourage people with long-term health conditions and their adult carers to get the COVID-19 jab.

The organisations, which include The British Heart Foundation, Asthma UK, MacMillan Cancer Support and The Sickle Cell Society, will help promote access to key advice and information on vaccines.

They will work alongside the UK government and the NHS.

Britain is currently leading the coronavirus vaccination race in Europe, after becoming the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer (PFE) jab.

In December, the NHS began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNTX) vaccine, followed by the Oxford AstraZeneca ($AZN.L) one. A third vaccine, from Moderna (MRNA), was also approved, with others in the pipeline.

Around 19 million people have been vaccinated (with a first dose) so far in the UK, with around the majority of over-80s receiving the jab, as well as elderly residents in care homes.

The official estimate of the R number — how many people each infected person then reinfects — is between 0.6 and 0.9 for the UK, with new infections falling by 2% to 6% per day.

Since 15 February those in cohort 6 – people between the ages of 16 and 64 with certain underlying health conditions and their carers – have been receiving invites from their GP practice to get inoculated from COVID-19.

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“Having the support of the charities who work every day to support the very people we are reaching out to in cohort 6 is a great boost for the rollout which continues to show what we can achieve when we pull together as one,” Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, said.

“Their help, encouragement and links with communities next in line for the jab will help make sure everyone can get access to the life-saving protection the vaccine provide.”

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “We are incredibly proud to be working with other leading voices in the charity sector to encourage people to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

“People with diabetes have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they develop coronavirus.”

Seven mass vaccine centres have also now opened in England.

Ashton Gate football stadium in Bristol, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, the Excel Centre where London's Nightingale hospital is based, Newcastle's Centre for Life, the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, Robertson House in Stevenage and Birmingham's Millennium Point will offer vaccines to people aged 80 and older, along with health and care staff.

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As part of the vaccines delivery plan, the government hopes that all adults can be vaccinated by the autumn. It plans to have a total of 2,700 vaccine sites across the country.

Britain was the first European nation to pass the 100,000 landmark and the fifth country in the world after the US, Brazil, India and Mexico.

However, the number of new virus cases has plunged from a peak of 66,405 a day on 11 January to 8,523 on Friday.

Earlier this month the Cabinet Office also announced that the most vulnerable groups would receive a jab by polling day at the latest.

In a press release, it said: “The UK's vaccination programme is planned to have reached all nine priority cohorts by May, meaning that the government can commit to go ahead with these polls with confidence.”

The government plans to give councils an extra £31m ($41m) for plastic screens in polling stations and hand sanitiser to make the polls Covid-safe. People who are shielding will be encouraged to vote by post.

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