Covid vaccinations start
PEOPLE in the Downend area are being vaccinated against Covid-19, as the national programme reaches GP surgeries.
The first jabs in Downend were administered just before Christmas at Christchurch medical centre in North Street, for patients of the Downend Health Group, Emersons Green Medical Centre, Leap Valley, Orchard and Three Shires GP practices.
The Healthier Together partnership of ten local health and care organisations, which is organising vaccinations in the area, said that by mid-January, 19 local centres were acting as hubs across the Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset region, along with Southmead Hospital and Ashton Gate stadium, where a "super vaccination centre" has been set up.
The first vaccinations offered to Downend residents used the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab also offered from early January.
But the government's decision to delay second doses of the vaccination from three weeks to 12, to ensure more people could quickly receive a first shot, meant that some patients in the area had second appointments cancelled.
Mangotsfield resident Ray Isaac, a volunteer driver with Kingswood Community Transport, was one of the first to receive a vaccination, on December 23. But his appointment for a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, on January 13, was cancelled.
The decision to delay is controversial because, while evidence has been found that a longer gap between doses can increase the effectiveness of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, Pfizer says its vaccine has only been tested with a 21-day gap.
Ray, 82, was philosophical about the delay, saying: "I would have liked to have the second one but I suppose they're trying to do the right thing so I don't mind."
He said he hoped the change would mean other people such as his wife, who is under 80, could get the vaccination more quickly.
The Healthier Together partnership is urging people not to call their surgery to ask when they will be given the vaccine but instead to wait to be contacted.
The group said: "Staff are working tirelessly to ensure the necessary measures are in place for those most at risk to get their vaccine first.
"We ask for your patience and understanding; we are doing everything we can to stick to our timelines; however, we may need to cancel or amend appointments depending on delivery of the vaccine. Please be assured that no one will be left behind – this is the start of the vaccination programme and there will be enough for everyone."
A spokesman for the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is part of the Healthier Together partnership, said each group of surgeries, known as a Primary Care Network (PCN), was planning vaccination days according to planned deliveries, with some organising them on consecutive days and some aiming to use an entire delivery of vaccines in a day.
Each PCN was being given discretion to either honour existing bookings for second doses or rearrange them for 12 weeks after the first.
The spokesman said people who had been invited to have a jab at the Ashton Gate stadium centre but felt it was not convenient to travel there could wait to be invited to their local GP site.