Health chiefs are awaiting NHS guidance before next week’s rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which has been shown to be 95 per cent effective.
It is expected health staff in our region could be offered the vaccine as soon as Monday. About 40 million doses have been ordered nationally, with 800,000 arriving next week for priority groups including health staff, care home workers and residents and the over-80s.
In Shropshire, the overall delivery of a vaccine will be overseen by the Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, which previously confirmed work was ongoing to ensure Shropshire was ready when it gets the go ahead. It is awaiting details of delivery, but health staff are likely to travel to a central point for vaccination.
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Dr Jess Harvey, from Much Wenlock and Cressage Medical Practice, said: “It is great news. It’s definitely given everyone hope going into Christmas, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We still need to be really careful and keep following the rules. People also need to get their flu vaccine.”
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said it was an “important next step” in the fight against coronavirus.
He added: “The NHS has a proven track record of delivering large scale vaccinations from the winter flu jab to BCG and, once the final hurdles are cleared and the vaccine arrives in England’s hospitals, health service staff will begin offering people this ground-breaking jab in a programme that will expand to cover the whole country in the coming months.”
The free vaccine will not be compulsory and there will be three ways of vaccinating people across the UK – in hospitals, vaccination centres and the community, with GPs and pharmacists.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there are 50 hospitals across the UK already set up and waiting for the vaccine. It has not been disclosed if any hospitals in Shropshire are among them.
Elderly people in care homes and their carers are among those at the top of the list for the jab, with everyone older than 50 due to be vaccinated by the end of phase one. David Coull, chief executive of Coverage Care, which manages 12 care homes in the county, said the vaccine would provide “light at the end of the tunnel” and “has the potential to change everything”.
He added that they were now awaiting details on how and when it would be available for residents and staff.
He said: “First of all everyone should be celebrating the arrival of a vaccine.
“This particular vaccine is more complicated in terms of its storage but we should all be delighted that we have a vaccine and can look at the light at the end of the tunnel.
“The issue for care homes will be storage at temperature. I have also seen the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation report and they certainly need to produce something a bit more accessible for staff and residents to decide if they want to take the vaccine.
“My sincere hope is people take it because if we don’t then it is rather a big waste of time and money, and we won’t get that much vaunted ‘herd immunity’.”
Mr Coull said he was quite ready to “stand at the front of the queue” for the vaccine and said they would now wait for information on how the process of vaccinating residents can take place.
MPs in the county have also welcomed the green light given to the vaccine.
North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson said: “Good news from Matt Hancock that it will be deployed from next week, protecting the most vulnerable.
“Well done to the UK medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
“It is a credit to their professionalism that they were first in the world to approve a Covid19 vaccine.”
Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski said the news was ‘significant and welcome’ while Telford MP Lucy Allan described it as ‘brilliant’ and ‘exciting’.
Ludlow MP Philip Dunne added: “Fantastic news that vaccination programme will start next week with first 800,000 doses for over 80s, NHS and care home staff. “Huge national effort to get this done.”