Covid-19 vaccinations begin in Barnstaple
- Credit: Simon Ellery
The first people in North Devon began receiving their covid-19 vaccinations today (Tuesday, December 29) at two Barnstaple locations.
A mass vaccination centre has opened at North Devon Leisure Centre, while vulnerable patients attending North Devon District Hospital will also be offered the vaccine.
The hospital will see patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient among those offered the vaccine and any appointments not used for priority groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from Covid.
At the leisure centre this morning, a box of the Pfizer Biontec vaccine was delivered to enable staff from local GP practices to begin administering the first 975 doses.
Those eligible for the first vaccines will be contacted directly by the NHS and people have been urged not to call their local hospital or surgery themselves.
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The Gazette was able to get a sneak look inside the leisure centre this morning and there was a sense of anticipation as the eagerly-awaited vaccine arrived.
Distanced tables were laid out ready to administer the vaccine, whose surprisingly small box was carefully stored in the fridge until the first patients begin to arrive this afternoon.
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Dr Sophia Erdozain, GP at Litchdon Medical Centre in Barnstaple said: “We are pleased to be able to offer the coronavirus vaccination here in North Devon and we have 14 GP surgeries who quickly worked together over the last few weeks with great dedication, skill and efficiency to ensure that these life changing vaccinations are delivered to our communities.
“From this week we are holding clinics in the leisure centre where we can provide the vaccines in a safe and socially distanced way.
“We have had a lot of local support and would like to thank North Devon Council and Lex Leisure for working with us so we could use the Leisure Centre and a thank you to the bowling club for giving up their space for us.
“We have volunteer marshals from the Barnstaple Rotary and Rotary Link and the Ilfracombe Round Table and we would like to thank them for their time. We also thank Barnstaple Shopmobility and Age Concern for providing us with wheelchairs.
“Lastly we would like to thank all those who have been waiting patiently to be contacted for their invitation.
“We are working through our patient lists in priority order, as set out in the national guidance, and will make contact with everyone who is eligible in due course."
At the hospital, Andrea Bell, interim director of nursing and mass vaccination lead at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We welcome the news that the vaccine has arrived.
“We will start vaccinating the most vulnerable first at North Devon District Hospital.”
North Devon MP Selaine Saxby said she had been concerned when the original Devon vaccine roll out plans left the north of the county behind.
She added: “Having spoken to the local Clinical Commissioning Group I was assured that we would be receiving our quota of vaccines and the rollout had to be gradual, and that the complexities of logistics for this first vaccine should not be underestimated.
"I also made my concerns known to ministers and I am doubly delighted that we not only have the site at North Devon Leisure Centre but that North Devon District Hospital has been added to the list of hospital hubs and is also now vaccinating healthcare workers as well as the most vulnerable in our community.
“This is very significant as it will mean that we can vaccinate far more people this year than had initially been suggested.”