The first local vaccination services run by family doctors and their teams have opened in Burnley this week, as the roll out of the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history gains further momentum.
GP Practices in Burnley have started to take delivery of the vaccine, with the first clinics starting from Tuesday 15 December. More community sites in East Lancashire will be going live in other areas from later in the week onwards.
Following approval of the vaccination, groups of health providers are setting up local vaccination centres in villages, towns and cities covering every part of the country.
Nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other NHS staff are working alongside GPs to vaccinate those aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers and residents, identified as priority groups for the life-saving vaccine.
Along with other countries in the UK, residents of care homes in England will also receive their first vaccine later this week after distributors finalise new, stringent processes to ensure safe delivery of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine.
Like hospital staff, who launched the world-leading campaign last week, GP practice teams have been working hard and quickly to ensure that residents can be offered the vaccine in well organised, safe and easy to access places in local areas.
The over 80s were the first group to be invited for the vaccination by direct invite from their GPs. The NHS will contact people in each of the priority groups identified when it is their turn to receive the vaccine.
In patients received the vaccine from a team of local nurses, pharmacists and doctors from Tuesday 15th of December. The vaccination programme will continue for the next two days to continue to deliver the vaccine to the over 80 year olds in the Burnley area.
Dr Mark Dziobon, Burnley GP and Medical Director for the CCGs in Pennine Lancashire said: "We are at the start of what will be the largest vaccination programme in our history and local health and care teams have been working hard to put arrangements in place to allow us to start protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities.
"After the birth of the NHS, the launch of the vaccine is the most important event in its history and certainly the highlight for this year. The roll out of the vaccine gives us renewed hope moving into 2021.
“It is fantastic that we are now able to start delivering vaccinations in our local communities and I would like to say a huge thank you to the teams of primary care colleagues led by local GPs who are working together in Burnley to make this happen.
"The programme will continue to expand over the coming days, weeks and months, bringing vaccination much closer to everyone – but this will be a marathon, not a sprint.”
Sheila Entwistle (82), of Cliviger and Allan Starkie (82), of Briercliffe were among the first residents to receive the vaccination today. Mrs Entwistle said: "It all was very quick and went fine. I'm used to getting a flu injection and it was just the same. People should have it done when they can."
Mr Starkie said: "It's important that people get vaccinated. It means we can start to get back to normal again."
Dr Yas Naheed, Burnley GP and Clinical Director for Burnley East Primary Care Network said: "In this first stage of vaccination, those with the highest risk are being invited first. These are people aged 80 and over as well as care home workers and NHS workers who are at higher risk.
"Today we were delighted to see so many over 80s who joined us at the health centre to receive the first of the two dose vaccination. We had put in place a considerable amount of planning and preparation to deliver the vaccination to local residents over 80. This has meant that we are offering the vaccination to the elderly by invitation. This has worked well and we have vaccinated a considerable number of patients so far.
"We wanted the vaccination delivery to be safe, well managed and easy – and it has proved to be so. This is thanks to the staff delivering the vaccines and the patients receiving them. It has been a real team effort. I am particularly grateful to the partnership we have with Burnley Council and Burnley Leisure Trust who have worked creatively and productively with us to achieve this.
“Patients such as Mrs Entwistle and Mr Starkie were among the first to be vaccinated. I am so delighted for them. This is such a hopeful end to the year, and gives us hope that we can see the back of the virus in 2021. Many patients I have seen have said that it is like an early Christmas present and I am sure it is but I do urge everyone who has the vaccination to stay safe until they have had their 2nd injection. Similarly everyone needs to continue to wash their hands, wear a mask and keep distanced. The virus is still around and we still need to do everything we can to beat it.”
Councillor Mark Townsend, leader of Burnley Council, said: "This is marvellous news. Vaccines are the way we'll get out of this pandemic - they'll save lives, get our local economy back on track and get us back to normality.
"It's wonderful to see the roll-out of vaccinations in our borough get under way. It really feels like we're starting to win the war against Covid-19, but we need to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint, and it will take months to vaccinate everyone who needs it. In the meantime we need to continue with our efforts to follow any Covid guidelines and protect each other from infection."
The vaccination programme will continue over the next few months and will be carried out in a careful, planned way with invites to those in the high priority groups from their GPs. The general public are asked to please do not contact the NHS to try and get a vaccine. Vaccinations will be arranged by appointment and you will be contacted directly to arrange an appointment.