The new Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is being given to the first people in Devon today (8 January), with thousands more doses expected to be administered in coming days and weeks.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved, the Oxford vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures and is much easier to move, making it easier for the NHS in Devon to vaccinate people in care homes and those who are housebound.
The vaccine has been trialled at selected hospitals nationwide for surveillance purposes before being sent out to hundreds of community-based local vaccination services across the country.
In Devon, the first batches of the Oxford vaccination were received by some of county’s GP-led local vaccination centres yesterday (7 January) and will be given to priority groups, including care home residents, from today. Other local centres will receive the vaccine in coming days.
Deliveries of the Pfizer vaccination continue, with thousands of doses also being given each day across the county.
Local vaccination services in Devon have recently been focussing on delivering vaccinations to care home residents and staff, who were set as the highest priority group by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
The GP-led services have been issued with smaller packs of Pfizer jabs which can be used more easily in care homes.
Dr Simon Ogilvie, a GP at St Leonard’s Practice in Exeter, which is among those to be using the Oxford vaccine, said: “We’re very pleased that this new vaccine is arriving at vaccination centres in Devon. We will now be able to protect many more vulnerable people against this deadly virus.
“Our management and clinical teams in Exeter are working extremely hard to create clinics and safely vaccinate as many people as possible, including our local care home residents and staff, in line with national guidance.
“It’s a very busy time for all GP practices, we understand people will want these vaccines, however I would urge local people not to make things harder for the NHS by calling your local hospital or GP practice to enquire about receiving the vaccine. We will contact you as soon as we are able to get you vaccinated.”
Darryn Allcorn, Devon’s lead chief nurse, added: “The arrival of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in Devon will help us ramp up the programme and offer this potentially life-saving vaccination to more people who need it.
“Everyone can play their part in bringing the pandemic to an end, and right now we cannot afford to lower our guard – please follow the government rules on staying at home and ‘Hands Face Space’. Act as if you have COVID, even after you’ve been vaccinated.”
Large-scale vaccination centres serving wide areas are also planned nationwide and more details will follow on arrangements in Devon when they are confirmed.
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsible for adult health and social care, said: “We welcome news that a second vaccine, Oxford AstraZeneca, is to be rolled out to Devon’s care homes imminently.
“Care homes are working above and beyond in their intense efforts to ensure residents and staff are safe and cared for.
“This new vaccine has the advantage that it can be more easily deployed across Devon, to reach many of our most vulnerable residents and staff who support them.
“I am confident that through our extensive network of GPs and vaccination centres, we will quickly start to see priority groups given the vaccinations that we have all been waiting for.”
Councillor Steve Darling, Leader for Torbay Council, said: “I am delighted that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine programme is beginning to be rolled out in care homes across Torbay, this is good news for staff and residents.
“The pandemic has been a difficult and challenging time for us all and we understand that it has had a profound impact on our residents and local communities, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
“We are now at a critical stage of trying to limit the spread of the virus and we must do what is being asked of us in order to protect ourselves and others. The AstraZeneca vaccine marks an important milestone as we begin to see the local vaccination programme gain momentum.”
Since 2019, GPs have been working together in Primary Care Networks (PCNs) to plan and deliver care based on local priorities. PCNs are opening local vaccination centres in phases across Devon, with 16 now established, serving 104 practices, with more to follow soon.
All four of the county’s main hospitals – Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, Torbay Hospital in Torquay, the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple – are giving vaccinations to priority groups.