Dozens of mass vaccination centres will be set up across the country and tens of thousands of healthcare staff recruited to immunise people against coronavirus as soon as vaccines are available, The Telegraph understands. 

Derby City Council confirmed that talks with the Government about using Derby Arena as one of the first locations for administering the Pfizer vaccine from mid-December are under way.

Smaller vaccine centres will also be set up in each primary care network for people who are more at risk.

The centres are being sought because the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored in dry ice at -103F (-75C), meaning it is impractical to deliver it to all GPs.

NHS England has instructed health leaders to find locations for mass vaccination sites and is due to start a recruitment drive focusing on retired doctors and nurses, along with volunteers.

Vaccine distribution

In an NHS webinar seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), Nikki Kanani, the medical director of primary care at NHS England, set out the plans and said it was a "longer-term objective" for people to be immunised at local surgeries. 

The Pfizer vaccine is currently furthest ahead and Albert Bourla, the chief executive of the pharmaceutical company, said submissions to regulators would be made within days and shipping would begin "a couple of hours" after it was given the green light.

However, the Oxford vaccine could still catch up with its US rivals as scientists said they were hoping to have results by Christmas and confirmed that regulators are conducting a "rolling review" to speed up the approval process.

On Thursday, the British team published new results showing that the ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 vaccine boosts immunity in older people and causes fewer side effects than for younger groups.

Professor Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator on the study, told a briefing there was "not that much difference in timing" between the groups and that all still needed to get through regulators.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, the lead researcher of Oxford’s vaccine development programme, said the team had already been in contact with several regulators to speed up the usual process.

"We’re not waiting until we have the last piece of information that we need to apply for use of the vaccine and then providing it to the regulators," she said. "We’re providing the information available now so that they can already start to look at that and assess it. 

"That process has already started with multiple regulators, with the aim of being able to speed up the final process of the licence application once we have the final clinical data set – we hope that that should come in before Christmas."

How does the Oxford vaccine work?

The Government has also announced that the over-50s will be eligible for a free flu vaccine from December 1 as part of the expanded flu vaccination programme.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: "This winter is like no other, and we have to worry about the twin threats of flu and Covid-19.

"Covid means getting a flu jab is more important than ever this year, so we are delivering the largest ever flu vaccination programme. Free vaccinations for 50 to 64-year-olds will now be available from GPs and pharmacies, starting from December 1."