Updated 21 December
Hundreds of residents aged 80 and over receive their first COVID-19 immunisation at a vaccination centre near their homes.
GP-led local vaccination centres are beginning to open their doors in Hertfordshire and west Essex, with more to follow in the coming weeks.
In line with national guidance and to protect those who are the most as risk first, the vaccine is initially being offered in the community to people aged over 80. GP practices are working through their patient lists and will contact people when it is their turn to be vaccinated.
Dr Jane Halpin, the Chief Executive of our area’s three GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups 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 would like to thank everyone who is continuing to play their part in helping to protect our communities from the virus.”
Getting the vaccine to all those in the priority groups will take a number of months. We can all play our part to assist the vaccination programme by:
- waiting 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
- attending both of your booked appointments
- continuing 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 in line with guidance, 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 person’s antibodies to reach their optimum level.
In the West Essex CCG area, vaccination centres which have been confirmed as opening this week include: Lord Butler Leisure Centre in Saffron Walden, St Margaret’s Hospital site in Epping, Lister Medical Centre in Harlow and Stansted Surgery in Stansted Mountfitchet,
Lord Butler Leisure Centre - Saffron Walden
Dora Hunter, 88, was the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccination in her home town of Saffron Walden.
As a former nurse herself, Dora had nothing but praise for the NHS – adding it was a huge honour to get the programme started.
She said: “It was something I hoped I would get, the vaccine, but I was surprised to be invited so early and obviously honoured to be the first.
“This year hasn’t been too bad for me, I am in a place where there are other people but we haven’t been able to mix too much so this will hopefully give us that back.”
Dora, said the process had been quick and simple, like having her annual flu jab and encouraged others to follow in her footsteps when invited.
“I think the majority of people I have spoken to are going to have it done.”
Beckie Reynolds, Uttlesford Contract Manager said “It was a pleasure to host the vaccination programme over the weekend. There’s no denying the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on us all, so we were thrilled to be able to play our part, together with the local council and NHS to deliver vaccinations to the people of North Uttlesford. By working together, we can beat this.”
St Margaret’s Hospital site – Epping
Derek Berwin, 88, Epping: “COVID has been such an inconvenience. I am very pleased to be getting this vaccine. I wasn’t expecting it so soon! The NHS has done everything to keep us safe and now I will be spending Christmas with my daughter.”
Frank Binder, 85, Moreton, was due to have his vaccine. His wife Marianne said: “We have been in isolation since February and haven’t dared go out anywhere. Our daughter lives down the road from us and she can’t come to see us with the grandchildren. If they were to come round it would be a burden on them because it would put them on edge.
“Now once the Frank has had the vaccine and the rest of the family get it we will all feel better and no-one will have to panic.”
Lister Medical Centre - Harlow
Bessie Cowdery, 90, from Harlow, was the first person to receive the vaccine at the GP site in Harlow.
Bessie said: “I was nervous but it was fine, like a flu jab, and I am just really looking forward now to getting back to seeing my family who I have barely seen this year.”
“I was delighted to be one of the first to be invited in, and I would tell people there is nothing to be scared of and to just go for it.”
Michael Yarrow, 80, said: “It all went so smoothly. Bearing in mind it was the first day I was pleasantly surprised I had gone in and had the vaccine within ten minutes.
“It was all very well organised.”
Margaret Simkins, 84, and husband Ron, 85, from Church Langley said they too were impressed with how soon they had been called in and at how simple the booking process had been.
“We got a message inviting us and within ten minutes of each other and the appointments had been made soon after.
“It was great we could come in together.”
Dr Jey Selvarajah, GP partner at the Lister Surgery and clinical director of the Harlow South Primary Care Partnership said it had been an excellent start to the programme.
He said: “It is a great opportunity for our population in Harlow to get their freedom back, to give them the chance to spend Christmas with their family next year.
He said initial take up had been good and thanked colleagues across the CCG for their dedication and hard work in putting the programme together in such a short space of time.
The CCG has worked with a range of partners including local authorities and the voluntary sector in getting the vaccination programme up and running. This includes Voluntary Action Epping Forest, Rainbow Services in Harlow and CVSU in Uttlesford who have supported the sites with the recruitment of volunteers.
Rob Gerlis, Chair of West Essex CCG, said: “We have waited a long time for this vaccine and after a lot of hard work and effort by staff, voluntary sector colleagues, local authorities and partners, it’s finally here and up and running. It gives us all something to cheer about.
“It’s been encouraging to see so many people taking up the offer of a vaccine. Patients have been incredibly excited to get the vaccine and appreciative of the hard work put in by so many people to make it happen.
“Huge thanks go to everyone for making this happen and run so well from day one!”
The vaccine is safe and effective for the vast majority of people – it has been tested on thousands of people and assessed by experts. You can find out more about the vaccine and how it works by reading the information from Public Health England which is available on this website: https://westessexccg.nhs.uk/your-health/coronavirus-covid-19
View photos of residents receiving their first COVID-19 immunisation at vaccination centres across west Essex.