More than 4,000 people vaccinated as Bishop's Stortford surgery staff work 'round the clock' administering jabs
A mass vaccination centre is set to open at Bishop's Stortford's newest school "at the start of February".
Avanti Meadows primary at St Michael's Hurst, off Rye Street, was supposed to open last September, but because of coronavirus the first admissions have been delayed until the start of autumn term this year, leaving the state-of-the-art building empty and available for administering the Covid-19 jabs.
The centre will require around 20 volunteers to support NHS staff, including car park and exit marshals, internal stewards and people trained to offer information to patients as well as someone to organise their four-hour shifts.
More than 4,000 people have been vaccinated in Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and the Hadhams as surgery staff work around the clock to deliver Covid-19 protection.
So far those treated by the Stort Valley and Villages Primary Care Network (PCN) include residents aged over 80, care home staff and key health workers.
Teams from Stortford's South Street, Parsonage and Church Street practices, Sawbridgeworth's Bell Street surgery and Much Hadham Health Centre are working to administer as many jabs as current deliveries of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines allow.
They have set up a field clinic at Bishop's Stortford Football Club and each Tuesday the vaccination team reviews procedures to maintain optimum operations.
Dr Sian Stanley, clinical director of the PCN and a senior GP at Church Street, said: "We acknowledge that there has been much frustration with regard to delay of the second vaccine, which is out of our control.
"This change in the rules came from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – which advises the Government – and tells us we must vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, including front-line health and care workforce. It was not a local decision.
"Our staff have had to reschedule all second dose appointments and will book patients in for a second jab 12 weeks after their first.
"Given the high level of protection afforded by the first dose, we're confident that patients are able to wait for this second dose.
"Members of the vaccination team have been working tirelessly through the week and into the weekends to deliver the programme, and their dedication needs to be commended.
"Staff at the football club have supported us in implementing and running the vaccination clinic and we're so very grateful to them."
Shan Toms, the club's general manager, added: "We're proud to be part of this vaccination programme to help the community get back to normal. I'm hoping this is the light at the end of the tunnel that will get us all back to a near-normal life."
Dr Stanley added: "We appeal to patients not to turn up early for their appointments as this can lead to congestion and the need to queue in bad weather, which has been harshly criticised by some.
"There is ample parking at the football club, so if people could remain in their cars until their appointment time, it would help manage the throughput of patients."
Last week, a mass vaccination site opened at Robertson House in Stevenage. Patients registered with Stort Valley and Villages surgeries who receive an invitation can go there or wait for an invitation from their surgery, if they would prefer to have the jab locally.
Dr Jane Halpin, chief executive of Herts and West Essex's three NHS clinical commissioning groups, said: "It's great news to have a large vaccination centre up and running as it means even more people are being vaccinated quickly, including those front-line social care and health staff who are supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities every day.
"However, for many people, particularly those aged 80 and over who have been prioritised for vaccinations, their GP-run service is likely to be the most local and convenient.
"Delivering a vaccination programme on this scale is a huge challenge and the roll-out of the vaccine is being phased across our area.
"If you're aged 80 or over and are still waiting to hear about your first appointment, please be assured that you will be contacted by your GP practice and offered an appointment very soon. You may also receive a national letter offering the option to book at a large vaccination centre, giving you a choice.
"In the meantime, please don't contact your GP practice about booking a local vaccination. We're very confident that everyone will be contacted, but staff are extremely busy giving vaccinations as well as continuing to offer their usual services. They will contact you. We appreciate your patience."