The first local vaccination services run by family doctors and their teams will open across Lancashire and South Cumbria this week, as the roll out of the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history gains further momentum.
Practices in West Lancashire, Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool, Burnley, Chorley, Lytham St Annes and Preston have started to take delivery of the vaccine, with the first clinics starting from Tuesday 15 December, with sites in Accrington, Blackburn and Lancaster from Wednesday 16 December. More sites will be going live in other areas from later in the week onwards.
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 will work 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, practice teams are working rapidly to redesign their sites and put in place safe processes to meet the tough logistical challenges of offering the vaccination.
The NHS will contact people in the priority groups when it is their turn to receive the vaccine.
Jane Scattergood, Covid-19 Vaccination Director for Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System, said: “We are at the start of what will be the largest vaccination programme in our history and local teams are working hard to put arrangements in place to allow us to start protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“It is fantastic that we are now able to start delivering vaccinations within community settings locally and we would like to say a huge thank you to the teams of Primary Care colleagues who are working together across Lancashire and South Cumbria 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.
“Being prepared for a vaccine involves a wide range of organisations. We’d like to thank our partners who are supporting this on a local basis including NHS, Lancashire County Council, Cumbria County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and Blackpool Council, our district councils, the military, police and many more.”
“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.
“We’d remind the public to please not contact the NHS to try and get a vaccine, we will contact you to arrange an appointment.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, practising GP and NHS Director of Primary Care, said: “GPs, nurses, pharmacists and other primary care staff are eager to play their part in protecting people against coronavirus.
“This is the greatest vaccination programme ever undertaken by the NHS and, to help vaccinate people safely we will be working with local communities to deliver it in convenient and familiar settings.
“As a GP I am proud to be part of this huge national effort to protect our patients against the virus and I would urge the public to come forward when they are called up for the vaccine.”
The community sites build on the work of the scores of hospital hubs which have already started vaccinating across the country, with Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust among the first hospitals in the country to receive and start vaccinating people with the Covid-19 vaccine.
The latest phase of the vaccine roll-out is being co-ordinated by GP-led primary care networks with more practices and community pharmacies in other parts of England joining on a phased basis during December and in the coming months.
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs and our teams are about to embark on an enormous challenge, delivering the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the community whilst also delivering the expanded flu vaccine programme and the usual care and services our patients rely on us for.
“There are also logistical challenges but general practice has an excellent track record of delivering mass vaccination programmes, and we want to use this experience to help protect people from Covid-19 and start getting life back to normal again. We won’t be vaccinating everyone all at once – it will be a relatively small number at first – but as long as there is supply, GPs and our teams at selected sites will start vaccinating people this week, starting with our most vulnerable patients.
“Patients will be contacted and invited for vaccination – we would urge them not to contact their practice enquiring about vaccination, we will contact them.”