The new Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is being rolled out to general practice led services in Lancashire and South Cumbria making it easier to protect care home residents and other vulnerable people against COVID-19.
The vaccine has been trialled at selected hospitals for surveillance purposes before being sent out to community-based local vaccination services. Royal Lancaster Infirmary was an early active vaccination centre, representing the North West.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved, the Oxford vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures and is much easier to move, making it easier to use in care homes and to vaccinate the housebound.
In Lancashire and South Cumbria, five new sites are opening in the community this week in the new phase of the vaccination programme, the largest in NHS history. This is on top of the 27 that were already open and vaccinating. There are also six Hospital Hub sites at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Burnley Teaching Hospital, Furness General Hospital, Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital, Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Royal Preston Hospital.
The first of a number of larger-scale vaccination centres planned for the area will be among many more sites coming online over the next few weeks.
Jane Scattergood, the Fylde Coast CCG’s director of nursing and quality and the COVID-19 vaccination director for Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System, said: “GPs, nurses, pharmacists and countless other staff and volunteers have been working around the clock to be able to launch more vaccination sites in Lancashire and South Cumbria over the past few weeks.
“Combined with the arrival of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, we will now be able to protect many more vulnerable people against the virus and faster.
“The COVID-19 vaccination programme has gotten off to a strong start across Lancashire and South Cumbria and NHS hospitals and primary care centres are working extremely hard to vaccinate as many people as possible in a safe and coordinated way. Please do not contact the NHS for vaccination and instead wait to be contacted.
“The rollout of the vaccine involves a wide range of organisations working together. We need to thank the significant support to the NHS to deliver the Covid-19 vaccination programme from our wider partners, including Lancashire County Council, Cumbria County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Blackpool Council, our district councils, the military and many more. More vaccination sites will continue to be confirmed over the coming weeks.”
The rollout comes after the vaccine was approved for use outside of hospitals by the four Chief Medical Officers and NHS England’s Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis.
Care home residents cannot travel to hospital for a jab and the Pfizer vaccine is difficult to get to hospitals, so the decision will speed up the drive to vaccinate them.
Care home residents and staff – as well as people aged over 80 – were set as the highest priority group by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
In addition to the Oxford jab, local vaccination services are being issued with small packs of Pfizer jabs which can be used in care homes.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Every part of the government and the NHS are working around the clock to rapidly scale up our Covid-19 vaccination programme so we can protect those most at risk from this awful disease as quickly as possible.
“The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine can be transported easily and I’m delighted care home residents will begin receiving their first Oxford AstraZeneca jabs this week. More than 1.3 million people have already been vaccinated in the UK, including 23 percent – or over 650,000 – of the over-80s in England
“We are aiming to offer vaccinations to the majority of care home residents by the end of January and all 13 million people in the top four priority cohorts by mid-February. This will ensure the most vulnerable are protected and will save tens of thousands of lives.
“As our vaccination programme ramps up, I urge everybody to continue following the latest restrictions to keep cases low and protect loved ones.”
Find out more information about COVID-19 vaccinations in Lancashire and South Cumbria at https://healthierlsc.co.uk/Covid/Vaccination