Frontline NHS staff were given their Covid-19 jabs alongside pensioners in the latest mass vaccination centre to open its doors on Tuesday.

A nurse who had come from a shift with coronavirus victims on a local ward said: "I am doing this to protect myself but also my patients."

Health and social care staff were among the first to arrive at the NHS Nightingale Hospital in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

It has a bus service which has been specifically introduced for patients and good road links.

By next week, they expect to be vaccinating up to 1,000 patients a day.

NHS staff were given their Covid-19 jabs alongside pensioners
NHS staff were given their Covid-19 jabs alongside pensioners

The huge airport hangar-like building has been divided up into cubicles to administer the Oxford Zeneca vaccine.

Rows of needles were lined up as the Mirror watched Army Medical Corps personnel assist North East Ambulance Service and NHS staff work through the long lines of patients.

Retired headmistress Maureen Rylance, 78, brought to the centre by her husband Stan, 72, from her nearby home in Washington, said: "I was very relieved when I got the appointment. When it was first built as a hospital for Covid patients, I wondered if it was going to be put to use.

"It is absolutely wonderful to see so many people here today. I never dreamt that I would be seeing an army medic. They are all doing a great job."

The NHS Nightingale Hospital in Washington, Tyne and Wear
The NHS Nightingale Hospital in Washington, Tyne and Wear

She remains vigilant in the fight against the spread of the disease. She turns 79 on February 21, but has no plans to see her three children or four grandchildren.

"I think you have about 70 to 80 percent immunity three weeks after the jab," she said.

"I was interested in what Matt Hancock said about this being the route out of this terrible pandemic.

"After all this time I feel that this is the first step, that we have hope at long last and I will be able to see my grandchildren when it is safe.

Rows of needles were lined up as the Mirror watched
Rows of needles were lined up as the Mirror watched

"This is the way back to normality."

Angela Arnot of the North east ambulance service, has been working through her annual leave to give hundreds of jabs, including Maureen's.

"There is a sense of hope," she said. "I have had my jab, and would like to be able to go and see my relatives in Scotland.

"I have vaccinated many of my colleagues at the ambulance service." Prof Neil Watson, chief operating officer for the entire programme in the North East, told how around 750 frontline staff were vaccinated on Monday.

The North East vaccination chief Pro Neil Watson
The North East vaccination chief Pro Neil Watson

By next week, that figure is likely to rise to around 1,000 a day, with a target of around 450,000 for mid February in the region - with a Government target of 15m nationwide.

"This gives people over the age of 70 another option if they do not go to their GPs," he said. "They have done an amazing job. This site has the capacity to expand further. It is such a good location, we are in partnership in Nexus and Go North East who have been incredibly helpful on transport.

"It's totally unused and was fitted out last year at break-neck speed and as you can see it's an extraordinarily good facility. For us using it for vaccination, it's just perfect."

He said the North east was on course to meet its targets for vaccinating patients.

There are more than 1,000 GP services and more than 250 hospital sites now offering vaccinations
There are more than 1,000 GP services and more than 250 hospital sites now offering vaccinations

Jennifer Staward, 80, from nearby Whitburn, South Tyneside, and she praised the way the process was organised. While she was monitored for a few minutes by health staff before she was allowed to leave, she said: "The taxi brought me here, dropped me off at the front door, I had my injection and now I'm sitting here.

"That's taken half an hour and I'm just waiting now to go home now for a cup of coffee."

The grandmother-of-one, a retired bank worker, added: "You just walk in, follow the route around and everything's fine and everyone is lovely."

The Nightingale Hospital in Sunderland is one of 32 new NHS Vaccine Centres, which is delivering life-saving Covid jabs as the health service continues to accelerate the biggest immunisation programme in its history.

The Nightingale Hospital in Sunderland is one of 32 new NHS Vaccine Centres
The Nightingale Hospital in Sunderland is one of 32 new NHS Vaccine Centres

The first seven large-scale centres, which can vaccinate thousands of people a week, opened two weeks ago with another 10 opening last week. The latest openings mean there will be a network of almost 50 across the country.

People aged 75 and over are being invited to book a vaccination at the centres or one of more than 70 pharmacy services now operating across the country.

There are more than 1,000 GP services and more than 250 hospital sites now offering vaccinations in England.

More than 1m letters have been sent out inviting people to the 17 vaccination locations in operation.

They are being used along with community pharmacy hubs.

Hundreds of thousands more are being sent to individuals over the age of 80 in the vicinity of these new vaccination sites.

NHS staff have delivered more than 5.5m doses of the vaccine.

The NHS vaccinated over 140 people every minute last week and hopes to do more people this week as more vaccines become available.

Nobody needs to contact the NHS, as people will be invited when it is their turn and people cannot get vaccinated by just turning up.