“The team effort to deliver the vaccines has been truly amazing,” said Dr Mark Dornan, a Gateshead GP and assistant clinical chair at NHS Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). “In just a few weeks, we have provided first doses to thousands of people in care homes, almost everyone over the age of 80 and many more among our most vulnerable patients.
“It’s our biggest vaccine programme ever, but the teams are doing an amazing job and have made great progress in just five weeks. From practice teams, district nurses and hospital staff to volunteers, clinicians returning from retirement, partner organisations and council colleagues, it’s an immense effort and our thanks go to everyone.”
The vaccine programme got underway locally in December, and subject to expected deliveries, the team expect to reach 40,700 first doses by the end of this week. With thousands of over-80s and older care home residents having had their first dose, the teams have also reached most over-75s, many over-70s are now receiving invitations, and Gateshead is leading the way within the region in vaccinating residents in other types of care home.
Gateshead has GP-led vaccine centres at Blaydon, Birtley, Felling, the Bede Centre and Rawling Road practice, with support from CBC Health (the Gateshead GPs’ federation) who have helped to bring retired clinicians back as volunteers. A vaccine hub is operating at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, while some residents will also receive invites from the mass vaccination centres at the Centre for Life or the Nightingale Hospital.
Frontline health and social care workers have also been invited, in a programme led by the five GP-led vaccine centres and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Many have already had their first dose, including dentists, podiatrists and opticians, which will help their services to serve local people with more confidence. Anyone who works in health and social care in Gateshead and feels they have been missed should discuss this with their employer.
Meanwhile, work is getting underway to vaccinate people in Gateshead who are housebound, with teams of community nurses from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital using vaccines provided through the local GP-led centres.
Yvonne Ormston MBE, chief executive of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s fantastic that so many of Gateshead’s most vulnerable people have now had their first dose of the vaccine. It’s testament to the hard work of people across the Gateshead health and social care system, who have gone above and beyond to roll out the vaccine programme so quickly and effectively.
“Here at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, we’re making great progress with providing first doses to frontline workers which will help protect not just our staff but also our patients and the wider Gateshead community.”
Councillor Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council, said: “Gateshead partners have once again shown what we can achieve through this rapid vaccination programme.
“I would like to thank all the health professionals, social care staff, council employees and all our local partners for this fantastic effort. There is a huge collective spirit across Gateshead, to make sure we continue to do what is needed at every stage to combat the virus.”
Dr Dornan added: “We are working within strict priority groups and we will reach everyone as quickly as vaccine supplies allow. We’re making fantastic progress, but we still need everyone to help us by social distancing, wearing face masks and washing hands regularly – even after having the jab.
“Some people will also get invitations to the mass vaccination centres at the Centre for Life or the Nightingale Hospital, but if you already have your invite to a local centre, it’s best to keep any appointment you already have.
“And please remember that social distancing is still important when you attend for your jab. When you’re invited, please attend alone, or if you need support, please do not bring more than one person with you.”