Seven new mass vaccination centres dotted around England have begun operating to immunise people against COVID-19.
The hubs, a key part of the government’s efforts to vaccinate 15 million people in the top four priority groups across the UK by mid-February, are located in Bristol, Surrey, London, Newcastle, Manchester, Stevenage and Birmingham.
They will be open 12 hours a day, from 8am to 8pm, with elderly people, healthcare workers and those required to shield the first to be vaccinated.
Queues formed outside the sites early on Monday morning as nurses prepared to vaccinate thousands at socially distanced tables or cubicles.
The centres, run by a combination of NHS staff and volunteers, add to the GP-led sites and hospitals already providing vaccinations along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking England’s total number of vaccination sites to around 1,200, NHS England said.
Patients spoke of their relief at receiving coronavirus jabs at the new centres on Monday.
Margaret Austin, 86, from Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, was the first member of the public to receive an injection at Robertson House in Stevenage on Monday morning.
She said: “It’s really strange being out for the first time in six months. A funny feeling but I’m really, really pleased and relieved to be getting my vaccine.”
Watch: Epsom racecourse mass vaccination centre opens
After receiving a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, she said: “I feel fine.”
Dozens of people were pictured queuing outside the Stevenage centre early on Monday morning but by around 2pm, the socially distanced queue of mostly elderly people had cleared.
A spokesman for Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust said: “People were turning up early. They were told to wait in their cars but many wanted to get out of the car. They wanted to start the queuing process.
“Now, what’s happening, they are being told to drive down temporarily into the basement car park where they are asked to wait and then are called forward 15 minutes before their appointment to the top car park to minimise the amount of time waiting outside.”
The spokesman said the number of booths in the Robertson House assessment area, where arriving patients are initially processed, had risen from four to 12 by Monday afternoon.
Moira Edwards, 88, became the first person to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab at Epsom racecourse in Surrey at around 8.15am.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said the site at Epsom planned to vaccinate at least 500 people on Monday, and would be “ramping it up in the coming days”.
The first patient to receive his Oxford/AstraZeneca jab at Newcastle’s mass vaccination centre at the Centre for Life was 81-year-old Nana Kwabena Edusei.
Originally from Ghana, Edusei has been in the UK for 55 years and lives in the Heaton area of the city.
The first people to attend the Bristol mass vaccination hub were delighted to have the jab and praised the efficiency of the medics and staff running the centre.
Social care worker Jacqueline Corney, 56, from Portishead, Bristol, was one of the first to be treated at Ashton Gate stadium.
Corney said: "It was absolutely brilliant. I feel privileged to be on the list to get it.
"I’m really happy and I think everyone should get it when they’re asked. They should go for it, definitely.”
Corney said that she will get the second vaccine in the same location a few months down the line.
Professor Neil Watson, who is running the coronavirus vaccination programme in the North East and Cumbria, said the launch on Monday was the “next gear” in the vaccine rollout.
He said: “We will be seeing across the country in each of the centres thousands of patients coming through on a weekly basis, which is a step change.”
Some 600,000 invitations were due to be sent out over the weekend and this coming week to people aged 80 or older who live up to a 45-minute drive from one of the new centres.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty praised the UK's vaccination programme, telling BBC Radio 5 Live he hopes that restrictions will “not be necessary next winter”.
“If we have a very effective vaccination programme,” he said.
“If the vaccine works for a long period of time and prevents transmission, and in particular if everybody takes it up as they're offered it, then my hope is that we will need minimal or no restrictions in due course.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that the government was on course to reach its target of 13 million people vaccinated by mid-February.
A total of 2.33 million COVID-19 vaccinations had taken place in England up to January 10, according to provisional figures published by NHS England.
Of this number, 1.96 million were the first dose of the vaccine and 374,000 were the second dose.
Hancock told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge: “Yes, we’re on course. The rate limiting factor at the moment is supply but that’s increasing.
“I’m very glad to say that at the moment we’re running at over 200,000 people being vaccinated every day.
“We’ve now vaccinated around one third of the over-80s in this country so we’re making significant progress but there’s still further expansion to go.
“This week we’re opening mass vaccination centres. Big sites, for instance at Epsom racecourse, there’s seven going live this week with more to come next week where we will get through very large numbers of people.”
Watch: UK ‘super vaccination’ centre prepares to open