Following months of clinical trials, the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK and has arrived on British soil.

The NHS will begin vaccinating patients against coronavirus at dozens of hospital hubs from this week at the start of the biggest immunisation programme in history.

However, there are a number of operational and logistical steps that need to happen before it can start being administered to the public.

The Government, through the Vaccine Taskforce, has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, as part of 357 million doses procured of seven vaccine candidates in total.

The distribution of vaccine across the country is being undertaken by Public Health England and the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through systems specially adapted from those used successfully for the national immunisation programmes.

Pfizer has now dispatched initial volumes of vaccine from Belgium and it has arrived at secure locations in the UK.

A post-delivery quality assurance process to ensure the vaccine’s quality and integrity has been maintained through transit is now underway and this is carried out by the specialist medical logistics company

This could take 12-24 hours and relies upon information on the shipment temperature data being supplied by Pfizer.

But once the quality assurance process is complete, there are still a number of steps to be taken before the vaccine is administered to the public.

This is what will happen over the following few days:

- Each box needs to be opened and unpacked manually, and temperature data has to be downloaded from each box. There are five packs of 975 doses per box. Only sites with the necessary MHRA licence can split the vaccine packs

- Once all checks are complete, the vaccine will be made available to order by authorised sites in the NHS, with around 50 sites in England so far, including Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary

- Delivering the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is complex as it needs to be stored at very cold temperatures and moved carefully, so at first will be administered from “Hospital Hubs.” Defrosting the vaccine takes a few hours and then additional time is required to prepare the vaccine for administering

- More than 1,000 local vaccination centres, operated by groups of GPs, will also come online shortly and they will be increased as more vaccines come into the country

- Stage one of the phased roll out of the vaccine will begin when it has been distributed

-Once the UK gets more vaccine and is the large packs down are able to split down, there will be bigger vaccination centres and smaller arrangements through local pharmacies

NHS staff are working through the weekend to prepare for the launch of the programme with the first vaccinations happening from Tuesday.

There are 50 hubs in the first wave and more hospitals will start vaccinating over the coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up.

Patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, will be among the first to receive the life-saving jab.

Hospitals will also begin inviting over 80s in for a jab and work with care home providers to book their staff in to vaccination clinics.

Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from covid. All those vaccinated will need a booster jab 21 days later.

GPs and other primary care staff are also being put on standby to start delivering the jab. A small number of GP-led primary care networks will begin doing so during the following week (beginning 14 December) with more practices in more parts of the country joining in on a phased basis during December and in the coming months.

Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients in sporting venues and conference centres will subsequently stand up when further supplies of vaccine come on stream.

This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, USA.
The UK has approved the Pfizer vaccine

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: "Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday. The first tranche of vaccine deliveries will be landing at hospitals by Monday in readiness.

“The NHS has a strong record of delivering large scale vaccination programmes – from the flu jab, HPV vaccine and lifesaving MMR jabs – hardworking staff will once again rise to the challenge to protect the most vulnerable people from this awful disease.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This coming week will be an historic moment as we begin vaccination against COVID-19.

“We are prioritising the most vulnerable first and over-80s, care home staff and NHS colleagues will all be among the first to receive the vaccines.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure we can overcome significant challenges to vaccinate care home residents as soon as possible too.

“I urge everybody to play their part to suppress this virus and follow the local restrictions to protect the NHS while they carry out this crucial work.”

The 50 hospital hubs in the first wave are: