NHS leaders in Gloucestershire say that monumental efforts have been made by NHS staff, groups of GP Practices and volunteers in the county to support the COVID-19 vaccination programme with thousands already vaccinated.

As of New Year’s Eve, over 5,000 frontline NHS, health and social care staff in the priority groups have so far received their first doses at the Edward Jenner Vaccination Hub at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and over 20,000 people in community vaccination centres and care homes across Gloucestershire.

The NHS says that the rate of vaccinations in the county should only increase as additional vaccine supplies are made available.

Professor Steve Hams, Director of Quality and Chief Nurse and Senior Responsible Officer – Gloucestershire COVID Vaccination programme at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:

“Over the past four weeks, the NHS in Gloucestershire has made excellent progress in rolling out the vaccine to priority patients and staff. I am delighted that the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has now been approved for use. The addition of this vaccine alongside the current Pfizer vaccine will help us to roll-out the programme further in Gloucestershire to those who need it most.”

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has now been authorised for use in the UK from next week. Based on best practice this will initially be in hospital hubs e.g. Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

It is then expected to be rolled out to local community vaccination centres shortly after, significantly increasing vaccine supply for priority groups.

Updated national guidance has also been published to advise increasing the spacing of second vaccine doses for both the new Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the current Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, guidance states that the second dose should be given after 4 weeks, but within 12 weeks of the first.

Updated guidance for the NHS recommends that the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is offered between 3 and 12 weeks following the first dose.

Those people, who recently received their first vaccination and are due to receive their second dose in the next few weeks, may be contacted by the NHS to re-arrange their appointment later within the 12 week window.

For those people receiving their first vaccination from today an appointment to receive the second dose will be scheduled within 12 weeks.

Clinical Chair of NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Andy Seymour said:

“Prioritising the first doses of vaccine for as many people as possible in priority groups will protect the greatest number of at risk people overall in the shortest possible time.

The new national guidance does mean that some people who have already had their first dose will be asked to wait longer for their second dose of the vaccine, but this will be within the recommended time period.

Whilst we recognise the inconvenience for some, we hope people will understand the rationale for this. We are asking for the public’s support in working through this logistical challenge.”

NHS leaders have also praised the work of GP practice teams, NHS community services and volunteers in creating a successful infrastructure for community vaccination in double quick time and for getting the programme off to such a successful start.

Dr Seymour added: “We are extremely proud of everyone involved in getting the COVID-19 community vaccination programme off the ground.

They have truly pulled out all the stops in the face of very challenging timescales. We now have a network of 10 community vaccination centres in place in the county. As a result, Gloucestershire is at the forefront of the COVID-19 community vaccination response and well placed to benefit from increased vaccine supply.

That said, GP practice teams are continuing to provide day to day medical care for patients alongside their support for the community vaccination effort and we are urging local people to act with kindness and understanding when making contact with practice staff who are working under great pressure.

We politely request that priority patients wait to be contacted about their vaccinations, including any rescheduling of appointments for second doses.”