Figures released by NHS England on Thursday show that, between then and Sunday, December 27, 786,000 people have received a jab.
The announcement that the army will be involved comes as the newly approved Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is set to be rolled out from Monday.
The jab was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and 530,000 doses are expected to be ready for next week. The vaccine has been dubbed a “game changer” as unlike the Pfizer drug it is easy to store and distribute.
The aim is to vaccinate the highest priority cases by the end of January. The NHS said it would pay GPs £10 a head for every care home resident vaccinated as part of an accelerated drive to protect the most vulnerable”.
Meanwhile millions of people across England are ending the year under the toughest coronavirus restrictions, as the virus continues to spread and hospitals struggle with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.
More than three-quarters of the country’s population are being ordered to stay at home, as swathes of the country were plunged into Tier 4 overnight.
Another 22 million people in parts of the North East, North West, South West and Midlands have been placed under lockdown measures in a bid to control infections.
People were warned they must ring in the New Year by staying at home and not mixing, with NHS England’s national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, saying: “Covid loves a crowd.”
Trusts continue to face pressure, with Covid patient numbers in England having surpassed the April first-wave peak.
Health chiefs said non-urgent surgery and outpatient appointments are being delayed, but serious operations, including for cancer, will go ahead.
The news about Buckinghamshire came after local authorities in Essex asked for help to increase hospital capacity, over fears about critical care and bed capacity, staff sickness and the ability to discharge patients quickly into safe environments.
Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin requested armed forces assistance for Essex in the Commons on Wednesday, including for vaccine deployment and testing in schools, although the Ministry of Defence said on Thursday it had not yet received an official request for support.
Union leaders are warning of the danger that health workers face burnout, soaring sickness levels and “intolerable” pressures because of the ongoing crisis.
Health employers were urged do all they can to find ways of maintaining staff levels at “swamped” hospitals, with Unison saying every option should be explored to avoid simply making healthcare workers do extra shifts, such as recruiting former NHS staff.
A day after the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was announced, in what was hailed as a “game changer” moment, Mr Wallace said up to 250 teams of combat medics could be made available to help deliver the rollout across the country.
He told Times Radio: “ We’ve already put 133 (Army medics) into the overall vaccine taskforce but I’ve also got plans for up to 250 teams of mobile, medically-trained personnel who could go out and administer the vaccine around the country.
“That would be over 100,000 a day they could potentially deliver if that is requested by the NHS – and we are planning to grow that if possible.”
The new restrictions mean a total of 44 million people, or 78 per cent of the population of England, are now in Tier 4, where non-essential shops, as well as gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers, have to stay shut.
People are also limited to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space, and must not leave their Tier 4 area except for legally permitted reasons such as medical appointments.
According to the Department of Health, between December 18 and 24 the weekly Covid-19 case rate in England rose to 402.6 per 100,000, one third up on the previous week.
Some 14,915 patients have been admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in the past week, an 18 per cent increase on the week before.