Covid vaccine: Roll out continues but is North Devon being left out?

Pic of gloved hands with vaccine syringe and bottle

The Pfizer vaccine is being rolled out across Devon, but some are concerned North Devon is lagging behind out areas - Credit: NHS in Devon

The Covid-19 vaccination programme continues to roll out across North Devon and Torridge but some fear the region is not getting its fair share. 

The latest figures up to January 17 reveal that 86,349 people have received their first Covid vaccine dose - 39,880 of those over 80 - while a further 11,885 have had two doses. 

The NHS in Devon has announced that every GP practice is now able to offer vaccination appointments to eligible patients - those aged over 80 and the most vulnerable. 

These will not be at the surgery, but will be at the vaccination centres in Barnstaple or Holsworthy - and some pharmacies are also beginning to organise vaccination sessions, see below.

But people have been urged to be patient and NOT to call their local surgery or hospital – everyone will be notified when it is their turn for the vaccine, and not before. 

A Holsworthy Medical Centre team prepares to take the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine to a local care home to vaccinate...

A Holsworthy Medical Centre team prepares to take the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine to a local care home to vaccinate residents and staff - Credit: NHS in Devon

The NHS has reminded people that calling their surgery will only waste staff time, which could be spent on other patients, and delay the vaccine roll out even more. 

For most people, it will mean a visit to the vaccination centre at North Devon Leisure Centre in Barnstaple, operated by several local GP practices, or to Holsworthy Medical Centre, the only two serving the north of the county. 

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Selected pharmacies in Devon are also beginning to offer the vaccine, including Arnold’s Pharmacy at Westward Ho! which is running a vaccination centre daily at the Baptist Church – but only for those who have been notified in advance and booked their appointment. 

Drawing up a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at the North Devon Leisure Centre vaccination facility

Drawing up a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at the North Devon Leisure Centre vaccination facility - Credit: Tony Gussin

People will be invited by letter to make an appointment through the new national booking service and given a choice between a vaccination centre or a pharmacy service.

They can choose the site most convenient and accessible to them or can wait to be contacted by their GP. 

GP teams are also visiting local care homes and priority hospital patients in the eligible categories are also being offered the vaccine. 

But people have taken to social media asking why some over 80s in North Devon are still waiting for their first jab, while in other parts of the country the vaccination programme is already on to the over 70s age group. 

Fremington county councillor Frank Biederman has raised this in an open letter to health secretary Matt Hancock, asking why North Devon appeared to be lagging behind other parts of the country. 

90-year-old Hector Delbridge receives his Covid-19 vaccination at North Devon District Hospital

90-year-old Hector Delbridge receives his Covid-19 vaccination at North Devon District Hospital - Credit: NDHT

He wrote: “When I hear the fantastic numbers on the news and some areas are moving to the under 80s, it concerns me that many of our highest priority residents have not been done or care homes. Why are other areas so far ahead? 

“I note our only mass vaccination centre for the whole of Northern Devon is only opening two days a week, yet you were talking about it as a seven-day-a-week operation, on last night’s press conference. Having been educated in Devon you will be fully aware of the rural nature and distances involved for people traveling to sites. 

“It leads me to be concerned that we are not getting our fair share, especially when you factor in our age demographic and in particular the limited capacity of our hospitals after years of bed closures.” 

All GP-led sites across Devon will be using the Pfizer and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines, but patients will not receive a choice on which one they can have. 

The Oxford vaccine is currently being reserved mostly for care home use because it can be transported without specialising refrigeration equipment. 

People are again reminded it is not possible to get a vaccine at a vaccination centre or community pharmacy without an appointment. To try could disrupt the work of NHS staff in protecting those at highest risk. 

Dr Alexandra Brown, GP partner at Holsworthy Medical Centre said: “We’re very pleased that this new vaccine is arriving at vaccination centres in Devon, and that Holsworthy has been one of the first practices to receive the vaccine.  

“We will now be able to protect many more vulnerable people against Covid-19 in our local area, including patients from Holsworthy, Stratton, Neetside, Bradworthy and Hatherleigh practices. 

“Our teams are working extremely hard to create clinics, invite eligible patients and safely vaccinate as many people as possible, including our local care home residents and staff, in line with national guidance. 

“It’s a very busy time for all GP practices, we understand people will want these vaccines, however I would urge local people not to make things harder for us by calling your GP practice to enquire about receiving the vaccine. We will contact you as soon as we are able to get you vaccinated.” 

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