The Covid-19 Vaccination Programme for Arundel
Arundel Surgery explains below what is happening regarding vaccinations in Arundel, and why they cannot administer them here in the town.
Meantime we are looking at how we can help residents who do not have transport to get to the vaccination clinic in Bognor when they are given an appointment.
A message to all our patients regarding Covid vaccinations from Arundel Surgery:
Amidst a national picture of rapidly rising Covid cases we finally have some good news regarding vaccinations. Despite what you may have seen in the mainstream or social media we have only just been allocated Covid vaccinations for our local area. Arundel sits within the “Regis” locality of practices and although some neighbouring localities had their vaccines allocated 2 weeks ago, Regis had received nothing until the end of this week.
So far we have been allocated the Pfizer BiOnTech vaccine, not the Oxford AstraZeneca variety. Whilst this is a very effective vaccine it works in a completely different way to “normal” vaccines such as the annual flu jab. It has very specific storage and transport requirements making its deployment logistically difficult. You may have read about it needing to be stored at -70 degrees centigrade – this requires specialist freezers that even most local hospitals don’t have. There are also many criteria around sites that it can be delivered from including patient access & throughput, IT infrastructure and even security (in the event someone tries to steal it!). NHS England therefore has a long list of very stringent requirements regarding its handling and the sites from which it can be delivered meaning that “hubs” have to be identified in each locality from which to administer the vaccine. The Regis hub is at Bognor Health Centre. Whilst we know that many of you will be upset that the vaccine isn’t being delivered from Arundel Surgery, we hope you appreciate that there are good reasons for this which are beyond our control. A 15 minute drive to Bognor seems a small price to pay for a vaccine that may finally turn the tide against this terrible pandemic.
Separate arrangements are being made to vaccinate housebound and care home residents – this is very difficult to achieve so we would ask people to please travel to the hub if at all possible. The more people who are vaccinated, the sooner this pandemic will be controlled.
With regard to the Oxford vaccine, although its rollout has been widely reported in the press we currently don’t have any allocated locally. As this is a more traditional vaccine it is hoped that when we do get some we may be able to distribute this from the surgery, but at the time of writing the situation is still unclear. The local CCG continues to liaise with NHS England and we hope to hear soon. If you are contacted to have your Covid vaccination soon we would ask that you take whichever you are offered rather than “holding out” for the other. Again, the quicker people get vaccinated, the sooner we will get through this pandemic.
The Regis locality contains 100,000 people so the logistics of booking two vaccinations for most of this group is a huge task. An organisation called usually deals with a lot of “behind the scenes” administration for GP practices across the whole of West Sussex and has agreed to run the booking process. Individual GP practices will provide your contact details to IPC (in a GDPR compliant fashion) so that you can be booked. We would therefore ask that you don’t contact the surgery to try to arrange a vaccination as this is being organised by IPC on a very large scale. Despite what some people may think, we are actually incredibly busy at the surgery at present as well as having only 75% of our doctors and 33% of our usual nursing numbers. We are also down a significant number of our reception team. The number of people calling to ask about Covid vaccinations is tying up a lot of our phone lines which we need open for our usual work.
In terms of timing it is worth pointing out that people will be called for their vaccination in an order that has been decided nationally. The first groups will be those deemed most vulnerable – people over the age of 80, those with serious long-term health conditions and frontline healthcare workers. As more vaccines become available those in lower risk groups will start to be called. We are receiving large numbers of emails from people asking where they are on the list, when their vaccination will be etc. I’m afraid it is impossible to answer this number of emails and you can rest assured that our computer system will identify you for vaccination when your time comes. Obviously with such large numbers to vaccinate and a vaccine supply that is still uncertain it may take some time for your turn to arrive. We would ask that you remain patient however hard that seems in such worrying times.
We would like to thank all of you who have volunteered to help out with the vaccination programme. Your very kind offer is much appreciated. We very much hope that we may be able to take you up on your offer soon. Unfortunately the amount of bureaucracy involved (for which the NHS is infamous) is somewhat prohibitive for most people at present. We have spoken to our local MP who has brought the matter up with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and we sincerely hope this ridiculous situation is solved quickly.
Finally, we would like to wish all of our patients well during this difficult time. We know that local Covid cases are rising quickly where we had previously been thankfully relatively spared. We also know the toll this is taking on people’s mental health with the associated anxiety from the number of people we are talking to. It is for that reason would would like to remind you to abide by the rules of lockdown now more than ever and practice the “hands, face, space” mantra. Whilst the vaccination programme is an essential step in the fight against Covid it is important not to lose sight of the simple measures that can reduce spread. It will realistically be some months yet before production & supply of vaccines, and the full ability of the NHS to deliver the programme at scale makes a significant impact. In the meantime we should all do our bit to keep ourselves and others safe.