NHS Dumfries & Galloway

First COVID vaccine approved for use in UK

A PROGRAMME of vaccination against COVID-19 is being readied in Dumfries and Galloway – following approval in the UK of a vaccine.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) has approved the use in the UK of the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech.

Plans are moving ahead for the first cohort of recipients, and no contact is required by any member of the public to contacts such as GPs at this time around arrangements – as approaches will be made to those eligible directly.

NHS Dumfries and Galloway Chief Executive Jeff Ace said: “The approval of what hopefully is the first in a series of vaccines which will provide protection against COVID is fantastic news.

“This is a key moment in our management of the coronavirus. The development and approval of what has proven to be a safe and effective means of combating COVID moves us to what we hope will be the last phase in managing the pandemic.

“Work has been taking place to ensure our readiness locally to deliver a vaccine to provide protection against COVID, and this announcement means we can now take that forward.

“However, there is no understating the scale of what we are undertaking here – quite simply the biggest mass vaccination in the history of Dumfries and Galloway. The scale of the vaccination poses a real challenge, as does some of the particular requirements in delivering vaccines like the one from Pfizer/BioNTech which has to be kept specially refrigerated until just before use.

“As a consequence, we would ask everyone to be patient, to be understanding, and to work with us as we begin this process.

“There is a truly genuine cause for celebration at the news of this vaccine’s approval, but I absolutely need to stress the need for caution and to guard against complacency. We are not out of the woods yet. Far from it.

“We’ll be working as quickly as possible to deliver COVID vaccinations, but in the meantime we have individuals and communities who remain just as at risk as they were the day before this news was delivered.

“It’s vitally important that we all continue to follow the national directions around face coverings, hand hygiene and around physical distancing and interactions, to protect ourselves and each other. Dumfries and Galloway has experienced tragedies during this pandemic, but everyone has done an amazing job at helping to prevent the effects of COVID from being much worse. It would be terrible to falter now, as we head towards what we hope will be the prospect of longer-term stability.

“Finally, I would like to encourage everyone to take up the opportunity of a COVID vaccine as it becomes available to them. I appreciate that the last eight months have been very difficult, challenging and sometimes baffling for everyone. However, during this period scientists have been quietly working away, supported to carry out their work and develop vaccines which are not really any different to those we’ve received at different stages in our lives, but which are designed and proven to be the very best safe and effective means to combat COVID-19 and help us to get on with our lives. I’d encourage everyone to get vaccinated, to help protect themselves, their loved ones, neighbours, colleagues and communities.”

More details on the vaccination programme will become available over coming days.

At present, NHS Dumfries and Galloway is planning to be able to begin delivering vaccinations as is possible from next Tuesday, December 8.

There is a requirement to keep Pfizer/BioNTech refrigerated at minus 70 degrees until use, and Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary has these required facilities.

At least initially, a consequence is the plan for vaccination of health and social care staff serving in front line roles across the region to be delivered at DGRI as of December 8.

Planning is for provision of vaccination to care home residents as shortly as possible thereafter, and this will be aided by approval to use the Astra Zeneca vaccine which does not have the same storage requirements.

Arrangements will be made via employers for those front line health and social care staff in this first wave of vaccinations.

At this time, and as stated, there is no requirement for anyone to seek themselves to make arrangements for COVID vaccination, as arrangements will be communicated directly to all eligible recipients in this first cohort.

However, more information will be shared publicly as the programme moves forward, in the hope of providing the fullest understanding of arrangements.

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