History is being made in Eden today as the first patients line up at Penrith hospital to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Health chiefs in the district have been busy preparing a military-style operation to ensure the rollout is as smooth as possible.
A vaccination site has been set up at Penrith hospital for the 10 GP practices which comprise the Eden Primary Care network and around 3,500 residents aged 80-plus can expect to be contacted over the coming weeks to be invited to go and receive the jab, as part of the first cohort to be vaccinated.
Anna Sives, head of operations for Eden Primary Care Network, said: “We are doing it by numbers, because we could only do 975 vaccines next week — that’s as many vials (of vaccine) as we will get — and that will mean that 975 will be called in from a number of the practices and then we will do another batch of practices in the first week in January, and so on.”
The first tranche is made up of four practices in Eden, but vaccinations will be delivered to all those aged over 80, week by week from all 10 practices, in January, before moving on to the second cohort — those aged from 75-79 — at the end of January.
Stewards will be on hand and signs erected on site at Penrith hospital to guide people.
“It’s all been set up, practices have worked really hard. It’s busy enough and everybody is doing extra to get this, because obviously we want the best for our patient population.
“Come on time, don’t come early, because of car parking and we have got the logistical issue around the fact that every patient has to wait for 15 minutes (after having the vaccination).
We have done the maths — it’s like military precision,” said Anna.
With around 30,000 people in Eden being on the Government’s list to be vaccinated — which includes anybody with a chronic condition who would be affected by coronavirus — the mass vaccination programme could be ongoing for the next six months or longer.
“The biggest message we are trying to get out to patients is please wait, we will contact you. If you haven’t been contacted, you will be getting contacted,” said Anna.
A spokesman for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “We have already had two primary care networks — groups of GP practices working together — in north Cumbria start delivering the vaccine, in Carlisle and Copeland, which has gone very well.
“This is just the start of the vaccine rollout, it will take some time to reach all of those in the priority groups so we ask people to be patient — don’t contact your GP, when it is you turn you will be contacted.”
Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and the Border, said a huge debt of gratitude was owed to everybody involved in the vaccination’s distribution and delivery in Cumbria, both now and going forward.
“We all need to guard against the misinformation about vaccines, as the spreading of false theories will help no-one,” he said.
“I would encourage all constituents who are offered the vaccine to take up the invitation as it presents the vital next step in our fight against coronavirus and our road back to normality.”
On Thursday, it was announced that Cumbria will be remaining under Tier 2 lockdown restrictions for at least two more weeks following news that 472 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the week ending 11th December — up 23 per cent from the previous week.
From next week, between 23rd and 27th December, the Government is changing some social contact restrictions for a short period of time — allowing three households to form an exclusive “bubble” of people, which can mix indoors in private homes and stay overnight.
Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health, said: “We know from experience how quickly the virus can spread.
It would be extremely easy, if we aren’t careful and sensible, to find ourselves facing a third wave in Cumbria, with hospitals under pressure and tighter restrictions imposed after Christmas.”