By Daniel Holland- Local Democracy Reporter

Three new Covid vaccination centres could start opening in Newcastle as early as next week.

A city hospitals boss has confirmed that several sites are being prepared to administer the vaccine to over-80s and care home staff.

Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary became one of the first places in the country to start issuing the jabs this week, with some 400,000 people due to be given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at the RVI “as a priority”.

Martin Wilson, chief operating officer at the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has now confirmed plans for the next phase of the vaccine’s rollout.

He told councillors on Thursday evening that a number of ‘local vaccination services’ will open as soon as next week, where GPs will deliver the vaccine to people.

Mr Wilson told Newcastle City Council’s health scrutiny committee that four unnamed sites have been nominated and that up to three could open “over the next two to three weeks”.

He said: “Here in Newcastle, it is great news for us as a city that we participated in the research trials and helped to get this one [vaccine] through very quickly. It is great news that we have been able to start the vaccine rollout through the hospital hub.

“And over the next two to three weeks I believe we will start to see the first one, two, or possibly three of those local vaccination service sites being created.”

Mr Wilson said that 250 such services are expected to be set up around the country next week and around 1,000 by the end of the year – though they may only be open for a few days at a time.

He added: “We hope that those centres will start with doing care home staff next week and then rolling out to some sites for over-80s over the coming weeks. We are just assuring those sites to make sure they have got good access and will be supportive in terms of all the conditions we need to keep people safe and socially distant.

“Likely, many of those locations will open for a period of about three days for GPs to call in a large number of their patients to be vaccinated. Then they will close down and three weeks later they will reopen to give people the second dose, because this vaccine does need to be done in two doses.

“Hopefully a short matter of weeks after that we will get a vaccine that is capable of being able to be taken into care homes because the key group is continuing to protect the residents of our care homes, and the current vaccine we can’t take into care homes because it needs to be kept in these safe conditions.”

The Pfizer vaccine is initially stored at temperatures of -70C, and after it is delivered to hubs it can be stored for up to five days in a fridge.

Mr Wilson said that “200 to 250” people are currently being vaccinated at the RVI each day.

He added that bigger vaccination centres at large venues, such as sport centres or conference halls, are likely to open early in 2021 to allow for more people to be vaccinated.