The biggest vaccination programme in NHS history will be rolled out across Surrey on Wednesday (December 16).
Family doctors will open four Covid-19 vaccination centres at Epsom Racecourse, Chertsey Hall, The Westway in Caterham and St Bartholomew and St Christopher Church in Haslemere.
It will be all hands on deck as nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other NHS staff work alongside GPs to administer the life-saving Pzifer/BioNTech vaccine.
Those aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers and residents, have been placed at the front of the queue by the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
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Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said priority groups would be contacted by the NHS when it is their turn to receive it.
The Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust is working with care home providers to get their staff booked into vaccination clinics.
Reverend Chris Bessant, the rector of Haslemere, was delighted to be able to provide a venue and said up to 300 people a day could be vaccinated there.
“I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have this opportunity to serve the most vulnerable in our community,” he said.
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“Those with the greatest need will be the first to receive this miracle of medical science – right in the place where hope is always to be found, in their own parish church.
“Literally thousands of local people will always remember coming to St Christopher’s for this blessing.”
He expects the church may be used for around four months but said they would take a short break to allow for a Christmas morning service.
GP practice teams are working rapidly to put in place safe processes to meet the tough logistical challenges of offering the Belgian-made vaccination, which must be stored at -70C.
Dr Pramit Patel, East Surrey GP and clinical director for Primary Care Networks in Surrey Heartlands, added: “GPs, nurses, pharmacists and other primary care staff across Surrey have been working flat out to prepare for this.
“It feels like a proud day for primary care as we begin the next phase of our efforts to protect people against coronavirus. “Over the coming months, we will be working with local communities to help vaccinate people in safe and convenient settings.
“When you are called up for the vaccine I would urge you to come forward and until then, please be patient and don’t contact your practice or visit any of the vaccination services to seek a vaccine.”
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Royal Surrey County Hospital was the first place in Surrey to give the jab, with the manager of Worplesdon View care home, 69-year-old Graham Allen, the first in the county to receive it, last Tuesday (December 8).
The hospital in Guildford vaccinated a mix of care home workers, outpatients aged over 80, and hospital staff at risk due to their health.
Ruth Hutchinson, Surrey’s director of public health, said: “This is more good news that the first local GP-led vaccination services start in Surrey this week.
“We recognise the round-the-clock work of our colleagues in the NHS to make this happen, and for giving us all the hope of returning to normality in the future.
“But we’ve got to be mindful that the vaccination programme will take time – now is not the moment to relax and stop following the guidelines.”
She warned that in several areas of Surrey, infection rates are going up fast. “We’ve seen in parts of Kent, London and Essex recently that it doesn’t take much for this virus to take hold and start to spread rapidly in the community,” Ms Hutchinson added.
“Without vigilance, we will see rates rising further in Surrey and experience the dangerous knock-on effect of that in our hospitals and frontline services.”
The CCG said more practices, community pharmacies and larger vaccination centres in other parts of Surrey will join in the vaccine roll-out on a phased basis in the coming months.
Cranleigh Village Hall said it too would be used as a vaccination centre, though this has not been confirmed by the CCG.