Army arrive at Bristol stadium for COVID vaccine roll-out 'due to start next week'

·3 min read
An army officer at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol on Monday as part of preparations for a vaccine programme. (SWNS)
An army officer at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol on Monday as part of preparations for a vaccine programme. (SWNS)

The army has arrived at a football stadium to set up Britain's first mass coronavirus vaccination programme.

Troops have been spotted at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol to prepare the site to be ready to vaccinate tens of thousands of people.

Watch: Matt Hancock gives details of coronavirus vaccine rollout

NHS bosses have said people in Bristol could receive a vaccine – though none have been approved by regulators yet – as early as Monday next week, starting with over-50s and key workers.

The vaccination trial will be administered by the North Bristol NHS Trust but the logistics of getting thousands of people into and out of the venue are being managed by the military.

Officers enter the stadium on Monday morning. (SWNS)
Officers enter the stadium on Monday morning. (SWNS)
The army arrive at the Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol to set up Britain's first mass coronavirus vaccination programme. (BristolLive/BPM)
The army arrive at the Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol to set up Britain's first mass coronavirus vaccination programme. (BristolLive/BPM)

The first contingent of army logistics officers were seen arriving at the stadium on Monday morning to begin the conversion.

The stadium's mass vaccination operation will be running 12 hours a day. With its large indoor concourse spaces, large car park and convenient location, it is seen as an ideal venue. It was also used as a testing site earlier in the pandemic.

It's not being used as a spectator venue for Bristol City FC, with fans still not allowed to attend matches under Tier 3 restrictions.

According to the NHS experts, between 75,000 and 110,000 people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire could receive vaccines every week until 5 April.

Officers outside the stadium on Monday morning. (SWNS)
Officers outside the stadium on Monday morning. (SWNS)

Subject to regulatory approval, vaccinations at the site could start as early as Monday next week (7 December).

The South West branch of NHS England refused to comment on the programme.

However, Bristol mayor Marvin Rees told the BBC’s Politics Live show on Monday: “The aim is that we are ready for anything that comes along that allows us to work for the safety of our population, so we will make sure that everything that we’ve got is in place."

The UK has placed orders for 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine – enough to vaccinate most of the population – with rollout expected in the coming weeks if the jab is approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

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Oxford data indicates the vaccine has 62% efficacy when one full dose is given followed by another full dose, but when people were given a half dose followed by a full dose at least a month later, its efficacy rose to 90%.

The combined analysis from both dosing regimes resulted in an average efficacy of 70.4%.

Watch: Boris Johnson appoints vaccine minister

On Sunday, the government said it had also secured an extra 2 million doses of another COVID-19 vaccine, by US firm Moderna, that trials suggest is 95% effective.

It brings the total number of jabs on order from Moderna to 7 million, enough for around 3.5 million people in the UK.

This vaccine has yet to be approved by the MHRA, but doses could begin being delivered next spring if it meets the standards.

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 28: General view outside the stadium ahead of the Sky Bet Championship match between Bristol City and Sheffield Wednesday at Ashton Gate on June 28, 2020 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Britain's first mass coronavirus vaccination programme is planned at Ashton Gate. (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Interim data suggests the jab is highly effective in preventing people getting ill and may work across all age groups, including the elderly.

The government also has orders for 40 million doses of a third jab, from Pfizer and BioNTech, that has been shown to be 95% effective.

Watch: How England's new three-tier COVID system will work

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