After a turbulent and traumatic year, the Covid-19 vaccine has been hailed as ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ and has arrived in Liverpool’s communities sooner than originally predicted. The NHS is operating a staged approach, with patients over the age of 80 and frontline workers being the groups to be invited to receive the vaccine.
As Julia Hyde, PCN Lead Nurse for SWAGGA, points out: “Many in this age group have been shielding since the outbreak in March, so this appointment will be the first trip out of their house in seven months. It’s offering people hope; people are extremely thankful to have been vaccinated.”
It is estimated that once 60% of the population are vaccinated, the positive impact will truly start to be seen, with immunised patients protecting those who have not yet been vaccinated.
GPs deliver the national flu campaign every year, however this has been a significantly more difficult task, with a myriad of logistical challenges to juggle given the vaccine was only approved in the UK in the autumn.
Childwall Wavertree Primary Care Network (CWN), a collaboration of seven GP surgeries in south Liverpool, first found out they were going to be one of the leading vaccination sites in the city on 23rd November, with patients being welcomed in for the vaccine just three weeks later.
CWN enlisted the help of Liverpool public service support organisation, Capacity. Emma Lord, Director of Health at Capacity said, “It’s certainly been a hectic time for anyone involved in healthcare these past few months, but it’s all made worth it when you see how grateful some of our most vulnerable patients are, thanking the nurses, pharmacists, doctors, practice managers and wider workforce for their contribution to making the vaccine a reality.”
Doctor Ayo Adebanjo, Clinical Lead at CWN and GP Partner at Valley Medical Centre, where they started vaccinating on 14th December said: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my career before now; this whole process has really demonstrated the power of true collaboration in action.”
Over at SWAGGA PCN, Doctor Udit Gupta, GP Partner at The Gateacre Brow Practice, added: “When we first started the rollout last Saturday [9th January], everyone was asking to chip in, to help out.” In discussing what the vaccine will mean for patients and their communities, he noted: “I think this [vaccine] is really what people have been holding on to… this is the beginning of what we hope is the end of this really traumatic time. A lot of the patients are very emotional; they’re very grateful.”
We feared that the rise of misinformation and fake news could have had an impact on the number of people in the UK willing to have the vaccine, however this doesn’t seem to have been the case in South Liverpool: “We’ve had very little concerns about the vaccine; people have been very keen to have it. We’ve had reports of a sore arm and maybe a little tiredness the next day but that has gone away in 24 hours with everyone we’ve spoken to,” Dr Gupta remarked.
The vaccine rollout has not been without the exceptional response from the community; over 40volunteers have signed up in to assist with stewarding the vaccination clinics, and over 300 trainee medical students from the University of Liverpool have offered to work as vaccinators at GP practices across the city.
Pauline, a local volunteer, explained: “I registered last May when Liverpool City Council put out a call for volunteers then, but we weren’t needed until I got an email recently from Roseanne at Capacity asking if I was still interested and following up with some dates and places I could volunteer. So, I chose the shifts based on when I was available and got allocated… The process has been very smooth, everything seems very well organised… So it’s been very good!”
When asked how she had found the experience, another volunteer, Barbara, a retired teacher from Grassendale added: “Oh, it’s been humbling, touching… just wonderful! To see the fantastic response from the staff… It’s just been very joyful all together!”