What the NHS has termed the largest-ever vaccine rollout in UK history will begin on Tuesday, the Department of Health has said.

Frontline health staff, people over the age of 80 and care home workers will be first to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

In England, 50 hospitals have been initially chosen to serve as hubs for administering the vaccine.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the start of the vaccination scheme as “a historic moment”.

“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,” he said.

Refrigerated containers holding the vaccine doses have been arriving in the UK from Belgium, and are being prepared to be moved from secure locations to the hospitals.

Prof Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said despite “huge complexities”, the first doses would arrive at hospitals on Monday, to be ready to administer from Tuesday.

“The NHS has a strong record of delivering large scale vaccination programmes – from the flu jab, HPV vaccine and lifesaving MMR jabs,” he said.

ScotlandWales, and Northern Ireland will also begin their vaccination programmes from hospitals on Tuesday.

The first consignment of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine arrived in the UK last Thursday.

About 800,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to be available in the UK from next week.

So far the government has ordered a total of 40m doses – enough to vaccinate 20m people, with two shots each, 21 days apart.

With limited quantities initially available, elderly people who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, as well as those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, will be among the first to receive the jab.

Others over the age of 80 will be invited to attend the hospital “hubs” to receive a jab, and care home providers will be able to book their staff into vaccination clinics.

Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from the virus.