The 4000-capacity hospital will be split in two, with half of the space earmarked as a vaccination hub.
It’s been a strange year for all of us, and that’s just as true for London’s ExCeL centre. After being transformed into a coronavirus field hospital in under two weeks, accepting its first patient a week later, and even making use of medical equipment from the set of Holby City, the hospital – NHS Nightingale – was then put on standby as the spring lockdown began to curtail cases. Now, with the third lockdown just beginning and UK coronavirus cases higher than at any point during the pandemic, NHS Nightingale will have a new purpose: as a giant vaccination hub.
“Mega-vaccination hubs” have been mooted for several weeks as a way to ensure a rapid rollout of the vaccine, and became an even more attractive option when the Oxford vaccine – which can be stored in a standard fridge – was approved. Sports stadia and exhibition centres have been suggested as likely choices, with the likes of Ashton Gate football stadium in Bristol already set up to receive patients. Speaking in the House of Commons today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that seven of these massive vaccination hubs will be launched next week, and NHS Nightingale will be amongst them.
Whilst half of the field hospital will be retained for critical care patients hospitalised with Covid-19, the other half of the site will be used to vaccinate Londoners en masse. The Evening Standard reports that, once operational, the site could deliver the vaccine to tens of thousands of people each week. With the government and NHS setting a target to vaccinate two million people a week, and to get 13 million of the most vulnerable people in the UK vaccinated by mid-February, it’s likely that many of these vaccination hubs will be needed over the coming weeks and months.
Also published on Medium.