Plans have been approved to get the largest mass vaccination programme the UK has ever seen underway in Grampian.
Since the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine was approved and delivered to the health board in early December, the focus has been on offering immunisation to the vaccination team, front-facing health & social care staff, older people care home residents and their staff. This is in line with the priorities laid out by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations & Immunisations (JCVI) and agreed by the Scottish Government. Strong progress has been made in this area and NHS Grampian is confident all eligible candidates in these groups will have been offered their first dose by the end of January.
David Pfleger, Director of Pharmacy for NHS Grampian said
Wave 2 of our vaccination plan sees us start to offer immunisation to the wider community. I am pleased to say some small clinics have already taken place this week and these will expand in line with available vaccine supplies. This will see our over 80s population (those at home, in sheltered housing, and currently in hospital) be offered the injection. As with the ‘flu immunisation programme, we will get in touch with them to offer them an appointment. They should not contact their GP or other healthcare professional but wait for contact to be made from the NHS. The public’s co-operation will help vaccination go as smoothly as possible.
I know there is a great deal of interest in this programme and people are keen to know when they will be offered immunisation. I have to stress this is the biggest mass vaccination programme we have ever undertaken and it will take time. Our current plan works on the basis that we will offer jabs to people aged 70 and over, and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, throughout February, with the plan widening out further as vaccine supplies and staffing allow. Our order of priority following the over 70s is those who are identified as clinically extremely vulnerable according to JCVI guidance, those aged 65-69, those aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions, those aged 60-64, then 55-59 and concluding with those aged 50-54 during April. After that, the programme will fully extend to all other adults.
This whole programme hinges on two key factors: the availability of vaccine supplies and the recruitment of staff. We are recruiting right now and expect to take on 100 whole time equivalent vaccinators (in addition to the vaccinators we already have working for us) and 280 Healthcare Support Workers. We will need to undertake further recruitment if we are to meet the ambition of carrying out 50,000 vaccinations per week.
The current plan will see both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines be used. Both vaccines require two doses. The second dose will be typically be administered during the twelfth week after the first.
As other vaccines are approved and stocks become available these will be incorporated into the programme. All vaccines are rigorously tested and checked before being approved by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Susan Webb, Director of Public Health, added
Public safety is our priority. We have complete confidence in the process followed by the MHRA and the population of Grampian can have confidence in that too. I would encourage everyone who is offered the vaccine to take up that opportunity. There is a wealth of information on the vaccines available on the NHS Inform website and I would encourage anyone with queries – or concerns about their own medical conditions – to pay that website a visit.