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Covid-19 vaccine: 89-year-old Dorothy De'ath from Takeley first person in Uttlesford to be inoculated against the disease

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An 89-year-old Takeley woman became the first person in Uttlesford to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 jab as a mass vaccination programme got under way at Stansted Surgery on Tuesday (Dec 15).

Dorothy De'ath was the first to arrive at the Castle Maltings practice. She told the Indie: "I'm really pleased to know something's being done about this now. It’s my 90th birthday just a few days after my second vaccination in January, so it’s an early birthday present!”

Hundreds of elderly residents are receiving the first of their two Covid-19 immunisations this week at GP-led vaccination centres. In line with national guidance to protect those most at risk, the vaccine is initially being offered to people over 80.

Dorothy De'ath from Takeley becomes the first person to have the Covid-19 vaccine at Stansted Surgery (43592777)
Dorothy De'ath from Takeley becomes the first person to have the Covid-19 vaccine at Stansted Surgery (43592777)

Ray Wright, of Hatfield Broad Oak, also turned up for his injection. He said: "I'm absolutely enthralled. I can’t believe how quickly this was done as I turned 80 last Wednesday so I thought I'd have to wait. I couldn’t wait to come in for the vaccination.”

John Monk, 83, and wife Shirley from Takeley had their jabs together. John said: "What an amazing group of people who have made these vaccinations possible – I'm so impressed. I was booked in quickly by a lovely young lady and it's quite amazing for it all to have happened so fast.

"The vaccination itself was very quick and painless. My experience has been 100% positive. I have so much admiration for the NHS here. We've had nothing but kindness and consideration."

Takeley couple John and Shirley Monk had their injections together (43592782)
Takeley couple John and Shirley Monk had their injections together (43592782)

GP practices are working through their patient lists and will contact people when it is their turn to be vaccinated.

Dr Jane Halpin, chief executive of West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "The amount of work that has gone into preparing for the biggest ever vaccination programme in the history of the NHS cannot be overestimated. The work undertaken by primary care – our GP practice staff – has been simply remarkable.

"In addition, our district and county council colleagues, the police and the wider family of NHS organisations have been involved in supporting a number of the community vaccination sites, helping to bring the vaccine into local communities in a safe and secure way. I'd like to thank everyone who is continuing to play their part in helping to protect our communities from the virus.”

In the West Essex CCG area, vaccination centres open this week include Stansted Surgery in Lower Street, Lister Medical Centre in Harlow and St Margaret’s Hospital in Epping.

Pharmacists at Stansted Surgery prepare to deliver the vaccine to hundreds of patients (43592785)
Pharmacists at Stansted Surgery prepare to deliver the vaccine to hundreds of patients (43592785)

Surgeries have to work as part of a primary care network (PCN) rather than individually to deliver the vaccine to people within the required, limited timescale.

Stansted is acting as lead surgery in the West Essex PCN for South Uttlesford, which also includes Elsenham Surgery, John Tasker House and Angel Lane surgeries in Dunmow and Eden House in Hatfield Broad Oak. Between them they look after 50,000 patients.

Teresa Buglass, practice manager at Stansted, said that a lot of organisation had gone into preparing the surgery for the jabs to begin, including installing road signs on the roundabout at the Lower Street/Chapel Hill junction to point patients from other areas in the direction of the Castle Maltings building. "It's taken monumental effort to get ready for this week and I'm very proud of our work," she said.

A statement on the surgery's website says: "The reasoning behind this is that the first vaccine (Pfizer) to be delivered is likely to be one with 975 doses which need to be delivered in five days – 195 vials each containing five doses. This will come with a diluent and the required needles and syringes. Once diluted, the vaccine must be used within six hours.

"It is unlikely a single practice would have sufficient numbers or clinical capacity to deliver this individually. In addition, the package of 195 vials cannot be divided at practice level and shared with other practices due to the regulations related to the distribution of medications.

"This is also why you will have heard about us having to deliver the programme seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm – including bank holidays, Christmas Day, Boxing Day etc. If we got 975 doses delivered on a Friday, we can’t just put it in the fridge to start using on the next Monday as the vaccine has to be used up in five days.

"At this stage, we do not know if we will have any control or choice over our delivery schedule. The vaccine will be in short supply and we must try and keep wastage to a minimum."

A limited number of vaccination appointments went live last Thursday for over-80s only – by Friday they had been booked out. The surgery is asking people not to phone to enquire about when the next round will be; it is expecting it to be the middle of January and will let people know.

Getting the vaccine to all those in the priority groups will take several months. West Essex CCG has issued the following advice:

  • Wait to be contacted by the NHS – you will be invited to an appointment when it is your turn. Remember, the NHS will never ask you to pay for a Covid-19 vaccination
  • Attend both of your booked appointments
  • Continue to follow all the guidance to control the spread of the virus and save lives. This means hand-washing thoroughly and regularly, wearing a face covering, unless you are exempt, and maintaining social distancing.

Everyone who is vaccinated will need a booster jab after 21 days. It takes a few weeks after getting the second dose for the patient’s antibodies to reach their optimum level.

The vaccine is safe and effective for the vast majority of people – it has been tested on thousands of people and assessed by experts. Find out more about the vaccine and how it works by reading the Public Health England information on the West essex CCG website https://westessexccg.nhs.uk/your-health/coronavirus-covid-19.

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