Fifty national vaccination centres will be set up across the country within weeks to help Boris Johnson hit his target of offering vaccines to nearly 14 million people by the middle of next month.
The Telegraph understands the Prime Minister wants to have established 50 mass vaccination centres across England by mid-February to help drive the mass vaccination programme.
Seven of the centres will open this week, with another seven next week as the programme expands through this month. One source said: "By mid-February there will be 50 [of them]."
They will each be capable of delivering thousands of jabs per week, scaling up and down according to vaccine supplies and demand, officials said.
Ministers hope that the rapid expansion of these regional centres will deliver two million jabs a week by the beginning of next month.
So far just 1.5 million of the 13.9 million people in the Government’s top four priority groups have received the vaccination.
The Government is committed to offering all them a jab – but not necessarily delivering vaccinations to all of them – by the middle of next month.
Nadhim Zahawi is leading the Governments plans to deliver the vaccine to the UK's population
Credit: Julian Simmonds
The expansion programme is being masterminded by Nadhim Zahawi MP, the millionaire businessman turned vaccines minister who has won plaudits in Whitehall for his focus on the detail of the vaccine roll-out and calmness under pressure.
One source said of Mr Zahawi, who founded the YouGov polling company: "He is going to do it. He has got a clear line of sight of deliveries until the end of February."
Senior government sources played down fears of glitches in the roll-out, saying that delivery of vaccines to the NHS had been "lumpy".
One said: "This is a biological compound. It was always going to be lumpy. You get a delivery and they say ‘we have had a delay, can we do the batch in a week’s time’. And then the MHRA has to do inspections."
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are running their own Covid vaccination programmes. Scotland will have enough Covid vaccine by the end of this month to vaccinate its top four priority groups, sources said.
The initial batch of regional centres were chosen to give a geographical spread covering as many people as possible, NHS England said.
They include Ashton Gate 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.
On Friday night NHS England said letters inviting the over-80s to attend mass vaccination centres were starting to land on doormats.
The first 130,000 invitations asking the elderly to sign up for a jab at the centres, which open this week, were due to arrive over this weekend, with more than 500,000 to follow over the next seven days.
The letters have been sent to people aged 80 or older who live between a 30 to 45-minute drive from one of the new regional centres, with information about how they can book a slot either over the phone or via an online national booking service.
Mr Johnson hailed the new centres, saying: "Our plan is to vaccinate as many people as possible across the entire United Kingdom as quickly as we can.
"And with more than 1,000 vaccination sites across the country, including seven new mass vaccination centres, we will help protect hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people over the coming weeks as we accelerate towards offering 12 million people the jab in England by the middle of February.
"There are deeply challenging weeks ahead, but today signals another significant step forward in the race to protect the public, and defeat the virus."