The letters have been sent to people 80 and over in a 45 minute radius of the test centres (Image: SWNS)

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Hundreds of thousands of pensioners have been urged to drive for up to 90 minutes in order to get the Coronavirus vaccine, the government has admitted.

Around 600,000 letters have been sent out to people aged over 80 within a 45 minute drive of the newly opened mass vaccination centres, suggesting they travel to get the jab.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman confirmed the letters had been sent during a briefing for journalists.

He said: “We want to ensure those who are the most clinically vulnerable receive a vaccination, and we’ve set up the mass vaccination centres to allow us to increase the amount of vaccines we give to people on a daily basis.

“The mass vaccination centres offer an immediate alternative to GPs [and] hospital services and letters have been sent out to more than 600,000 people aged 80 and above who live within a 45 minute drive of one of those vaccination centres.”

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said the aim of the mass vaccination centre programme was to ensure no-one was "more than a 10-mile radius” away from one of the centres.

But a 45 minute drive could be two or three times that distance.

Robert Williams, 84, wait to receieve an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS vaccine centre that has been set up at Robertson House in Stevenage, Hertfordshire
(Image: PA)

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The seven new centres in England 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.

NHS England has said the centres were chosen to give a geographical spread covering as many people as possible.

They will each be capable of delivering thousands of jabs per week, scaling up and down according to vaccine supplies and demand.

Downing Street added that Mr Zahawi had said people should not take up one of those appointments if it’s too far for them to travel and could “wait for a local appointment if they prefer.”

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But he confirmed the 45-minute radius was one-way – meaning a 90-minute drive for some pensioners taking up the option.

The spokesman added: "GPs are providing a large number of vaccinations to the local communities…and those who have received the letter that wish to wait for a local appointment, that is ok."

He said: "We will ramp up and open more vaccination centres as the weeks progress, as has always been our plan."

And he added: "It's obviously a matter of individual choice…If people want to wait and have a vaccine more locally, they can do."