People in South Tyneside who are most at risk from COVID-19 will be first in line to receive the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine from tomorrow, as the local NHS gears up to deliver the largest ever vaccination programme in its history.
From Wednesday 16 December, residents aged over 80 will begin to receive personal invitations from their GP practices to come forward to attend an appointment for the vaccine.
People aged 80 and over will be among the first to receive the vaccine after being identified by the NHS nationally as most at risk from COVID-19 following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
People must wait to receive their personal invitation from the NHS and are being advised not to contact the NHS to arrange an appointment until they receive a letter or are contacted by their GP practice.
Local NHS leaders are keen to reassure people that extensive work is going on behind the scenes to ensure people who are most at risk have access to the vaccine as soon as it becomes more widely available in the weeks and months ahead.
Everyone who receives the Pfizer vaccine will also need a booster jab 21 days later and the local NHS is working hard to ensure robust arrangements are in place to manage the recall process.
Although the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine is delivered by a simple injection in the shoulder, it is complex to move, store and prepare. It needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain beginning in Belgium before being used.
In order to maximise the stock available and ensure no vaccine is wasted during the early stages of roll out, care home staff and frontline NHS workers will also be invited to take up spare appointment slots.
Dr John Lloyd, a GP and clinical director of one of South Tyneside’s Primary Care Networks, is part of the team coordinating the vaccines locally. He said: “The arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccine marks a decisive turning point in this global health pandemic and means we can begin to take the first tentative steps on the long road to recovery and look ahead to the future with real hope.
“We would ask patients, the public and NHS staff to bear with us as we embark on this vaccination programme, which is the biggest we have ever undertaken. Much like the NHS response to the pandemic so far, this will be a marathon effort over many months, rather than a sprint.
“As we head into the New Year, we expect the programme will keep expanding as the vaccine supply allows.
“In the meantime, it is really important that people do not get complacent in the lead up to Christmas – we must all stick to social distancing rules, keep wearing our face masks and keep washing our hands regularly.”