Coronavirus vaccine brings hope to patients as more vaccination sites open in Shropshire

So many sacrifices have been made in the battle against coronavirus, but the Covid-19 jab brings new hope.

Thousands of elderly people in the county have now received their first dose, and further vaccination sites opening to the public yesterday are helping to strengthen the fight.

New NHS England figures show 41,098 doses of the vaccine have now been given in the county, with 19,135 over 80s – 66.8 per cent of the population in that age category – having their first dose by January 24.

Telford International Centre looked very different to usual as it welcomed its first patients through the doors.

More than 1,000 people had booked appointments at the venue yesterday.

After receiving a temperature check on arrival, they were ushered down to a waiting area and, from there, joined a socially distanced queue before being swiftly invited into one of several bays for their jab.

The whole process was helped by an army of volunteers, one of which was Pam McPhillips.

Volunteer Pam McPhillips helps to direct patients into the bays to get their jabs at Telford International Centre

The 61-year-old, of Longdon-on-Tern, will be helping out at the centre twice a week.

Each shift for her is six hours long.

"It's great, I want to help out," Pam said.

"I think the vaccine is fantastic and I'm available to come and do something for a few hours.

"Everyone who turns up is really happy to be getting it."

David Evans, joint accountable officer at Shropshire and Telford Clinical Commissioning Groups, was also at Telford International Centre to see some of the first patients arrive for their jabs.

Marian Thomas, 80, of Wellington, gets her jab from staff nurse Ruby Mander

He said: "It feels really good.

"It's lovely to see so many people coming to get vaccinated. This will make a real difference for the county.

"I'm pleased it is flowing well."

The International Centre was the biggest of six new sites to open, with five GP-led services also launching yesterday.

Patients arrive at Telford International Centre to get their jabs

Patients can now also get their vaccinations at Severn Fields Medical Practice in Shrewsbury, Prees Medical Practice, Church Stretton Medical Practice, Audley Court in Newport and Wellington Medical Practice.

At Church Stretton Medical Practice, patients from GP practices in Church Stretton, Ludlow, Craven Arms, Clun and Bishop’s Castle had their jabs.

Bishop’s Castle GP Laura Land is on maternity after having her little boy Elis six months ago, but she felt compelled to help out delivering vaccines.

“It’s nice to have a day out!” she joked.

“It’s been going really well, I’m really glad to be part of it. The patients are excited and happy.

"I think everyone wants to do their bit to help out.”

Dr Laura Land, who is taking time out of her maternity leave, vaccinating Maureen Bond, 82

Husband and wife Peter and Maureen Bond, from Church Stretton, had their jabs at each other's side.

Peter, a former RAF pilot of 38 years, and Maureen, a retired Canadian government travel counsellor, have lived in Church Stretton for 25 years.

Maureen said: “It’s such a relief, it really is. The organisation has been wonderful to keep us all separate.

“I’ve got lots of hobbies so I’ve been sewing, knitting and painting to keep busy during lockdown.”

The pair have two daughters and five grandchildren, and some of their family are in Australia. They are looking forward to seeing them again when it’s all over.

Maureen added: “We were in Australia last February and ended up being on one of the last flights back. I’m looking forward to giving them a great big hug.

“We’re looking forward to seeing our friends. We’ve been missing our parties!”

Nicola Daniels, chief officer at the Church Stretton centre

Finola Lynch, clinical director of the South West Shropshire Primary Care Network, paid tribute to the work of the team.

“It’s been brilliant. I think there has been a lot of emotion. A mixture of excitement, nerves and relief.

“We are expecting to have three quarters of over 80s vaccinated by the weekend.

“Staff from the GP surgeries are still doing their normal hours as well as helping out here. We’ve had help from retired GPs. Everybody has been doing a wonderful job.”

She also wanted to reassure people that the GP vaccine roll-out will get to them, so they don’t need to travel long distances to vaccine hubs.

She added: “Local hubs are popping up all the time. Ludlow Racecourse should be opening one on February 1. If people are receiving letters telling them to travel, don’t worry. You will be able to get to a local centre. You won’t get lost in the system.”

At the Mayfair Community Centre and Health & Wellbeing Centre were, from left: practice manager Emma Kay, MP Phillip Dunne and lead GP partner Digby Bennett

MP Philip Dunne said he has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to get more AstraZeneca vaccines to south Shropshire.

He added: “Over 3,000 will be vaccinated here in the next few days. Everyone has gone out of their way here. It’s incredible and I’m pleased to see the community working so well together.”

In the next few weeks, other sites due to open as vaccination centres are expected to include Ludlow Racecourse, the indoor bowling centre at Shrewsbury Sports Village and Whitchurch Civic Centre.

Patients are reminded they should wait for the NHS to contact them and offer an appointment.

The timing of when people will get the vaccination depends on the priority group they are in, which is set by the national Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – an independent expert advisory committee.

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