By Isabelle Walker and Niamh Houston
Croydon University Hospital has becomes one of the first hospitals to receive doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, as the UK prepares to administer it less than a week after it was approved.
The Croydon NHS trust hospital received a batch of doses yesterday in preparation for the start of the vaccination programme this week. It is listed as one of the 50 hospital hubs that have been designated in the UK to store the vaccine at the required specifications.
Croydon councillor Yvette Hopley, shadow cabinet member for families, health and social care, told Eastlondonlines: “It really is the best news I have had all year knowing that residents here in Croydon are going to be protected.”
“This will be so important to protect the elderly and vulnerable in the area many of whom have felt, scared, and isolated during this whole COVID process” said Hopley. “It will be Christmas come early for those that are entitled to have the vaccination.”
In a pointer to why Croydon hospital was chosen, she told ELL that the borough has the largest care home market in London with over 130 registered care homes, so the vaccine comes as welcome news to health and care professionals that are currently high priority.
Matthew Kershaw, Chief Executive of Croydon Health Services NHS Trust said in a statement: “This is a pivotal moment for the country and for us in Croydon, as one of the first Hospital Hubs to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”
“We’re delighted to be playing our part, vaccinating the most vulnerable people in our communities and ensuring the safety of our patients, our local people and our health and care professionals who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.” he added.
A Croydon pharmacy technician wearing specific protective equipment unboxed the delivery to ensure safe handling at such cold temperatures:
How will vaccines be distributed?
Croydon is the only hospital in the Eastlondonlines area designated as a hub, but other areas will be served by different Trusts around London. Some of the other hubs are: The Royal Free London NHS Trust, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
UK health officials expect to have up to 4 million doses of the vaccine, which offers up to 95 per cent protection against Covid-19, available by the end of December. The government has so far put in an order of 40 million vaccines which will cover a third of the population.
800,000 vaccines have been rolled out across the UK in the first batch, which will cover 400,000 people. Vaccinations are to be administered in two separate doses 21 days apart, with immunity coming into effect seven days after the second dose.
The vaccine brings logistical challenges as it must be stored at a temperature of minus 70 degrees, meaning that hospitals that already have the facilities will get the vaccine first to prevent wastage.
Vaccinations will be given to people at hospital hubs across the country from tomorrow, and people aged 80 and older, care home workers and NHS workers who are at higher risk will be prioritised. Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said the distribution of the vaccine would be a “marathon not a sprint.”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers said in a statement that vaccinating care home residents would begin in around a week’s time and would be led by primary care networks.
A small number of GP-led primary care networks will begin administering the vaccine on the week beginning December 14, with more practices across the UK joining in on a phased basis during December and in the coming months.
Hopson said that staff have been identifying people in the key target groups, and lists have been passed to appointment bookers who have been making phone calls to arrange the vaccinations. He added that people should not be anxious or worried if they don’t receive any communication as the majority of people won’t be vaccinated until early next year.