VACCINATION efforts across Dorset are “stepping up” as more doses begin to reach the county.

Thousands of people have already been immunised against the coronavirus since efforts started last month, mainly based out of a hub at Dorset County Hospital.

But in the next few days this work is due to be expanded with more than a dozen GP surgery-led programmes due to start next week before a mass vaccination centre in Bournemouth opens.

“There’s a lot of confidence that our delivery models are ready to go so when the vaccine supply starts in earnest, we will be in a very good position to start to see those numbers climb,” the county’s director of public health, Sam Crowe, said on Friday.

A third vaccine, produced by Moderna, was approved for use in the UK on the same day, although it is not expected to arrive until the spring.

In the meantime, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca versions are being delivered across the country with doses in Dorset “being used as soon as they come in”.

Dr Karen Kirkham, Dorset CCG assistant clinical chairwoman and a GP at The Bridges Medical Centre in Weymouth, said doctor’s practices’ vaccination hubs will be running in the coming days.

“We have gradually scaled up the sites from which we’ve been delivering the vaccines and we will, by next week, have all 17 in operation,” she said.

“We’ve been very clear about vaccinating the cohort of over-80s first and, to that end, we are doing really well, we’ve just got two or three areas [in Dorset] where we will be pushing on that in the next week or so. We’ve also got a considerable number of care homes that have already been vaccinated.

“General practices are working incredibly hard together and pulling out all the stops to get as much of the vaccine out as we possibly can.

“If the supplies flow well then we are ready to vaccinate every day of the week.”

On top of these centres, the Bournemouth International Centre in Bournemouth, as confirmed last month, will open as a mass vaccination hub.

“This will happen in due course,” BCP Council chief executive Graham Farrant said. “And I think that ‘in due course’ will be in the next week or two.”

As of Thursday, about 1.5 million people in the country had received their first dose of one of the vaccines.