Gateshead housebound vaccine effort starts with 100 year-old WWII veteran

World War Two veteran and former prisoner of war Jacky Forster was among the first patients to get their jab as Gateshead’s Covid-19 vaccine programme for housebound people got underway this week.

Bensham-born Jacky, 100, received his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at his home in Sheriff Hill, Gateshead, as teams of community nurses began the housebound programme locally.

Jacky is the last surviving member of the 9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, known as ‘the Gateshead Gurkhas’.

“I was very happy to have the vaccine – I’m glad to get some protection and I’ve had no after-effects from the jab,” he said.

Jacky joined C Company 9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in 1939 and fought in France before joining the withdrawal from Dunkirk. He later served in the Middle East and endured POW camps in Italy and on the Austria-Hungary border after being captured in Libya.

“I think this lockdown is nothing compared to what he went through as a soldier and prisoner of war,” says Jacky’s daughter Valerie, 73.

“We all need a bit of a lift right now, so this is great for everybody. Dad was so happy to get the vaccine – even at 100, he never complains, he’s so grateful for the help.

“Lockdown hasn’t changed things that much for him – we still have the team of carers who visit and we keep in contact every day. We still manage to go for short walks – he used to love to stop for a pint at the local, but of course we can’t do that at the moment.”

Earlier this week local leaders hailed the ‘amazing’ efforts of Gateshead’s vaccination teams, who expect to provide their 40,000th first dose vaccine later this week.

The housebound vaccine teams are led by community nurses from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, using vaccines provided through GP-led vaccine centres at Blaydon, Birtley, Felling, the Bede Centre and Rawling Road practice.

The vaccine programme got underway locally in December, and has already provided first doses to most over-75s, with many over-70s now getting their invites.

Having provided first doses to nearly all older care home residents, Gateshead is also leading the way in vaccinating patients in other residential care homes. Both this and the housebound programme are expected to complete within two weeks.

All frontline health and social care workers in Gateshead have been invited for their jab, and anyone who works in health and social care locally who feels they have been missed should discuss this with their employer.

Dr Mark Dornan, a Gateshead GP and assistant clinical chair at NHS Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “It’s been a worrying time for many, but especially for housebound people, who are some of our most vulnerable patients – so it’s fantastic that we can now offer them the vaccine.

“We are aiming to reach everyone who is registered with their GP as housebound – along with everyone else in the top four priority groups – by mid-February.”