by Alex Metcalfe LDRS
More than 2,000 Teessiders have received covid vaccines so far – but there have been concerns about how jabs are being rolled out at GP surgeries.
Teams at South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust have administered the PfizerBioNTech vaccine to hundreds of staff, care home workers and patients in the past week.
Craig Blair, from the Tees Valley CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), said there had been fantastic work at James Cook to get the programme up and running – telling the latest South Tees “Live Well” board how 400 people had been vaccinated every day since Tuesday last week.
He added: “It’s by no means the majority of the population, or the workforce, but it’s a great start and they’ve made the best possible use of the limited number of vaccines they’ve had available.”
But Cllr Mary Lanigan, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, raised concerns about the -70C storage of the vaccine posing problems for GP surgeries.
The independent leader said: “I spoke to my GP the other day because they thought they’d be able to roll this out.
“However, what they’re saying is each patient coming in has to be kept there for 15 minutes to see if there is any (allergic) reaction to it.
“That hasn’t been possible at the local hospital at Brotton, or the doctors surgeries, because it’s causing all sorts of other problems they didn’t envisage.
“I understand the Oxford vaccine would be easier to give and because of its temperature.”
Regulatory sign-off of the Oxford AstraZeneca jab is still being awaited in the UK.
This can be stored at lower temperatures and is being lined up for use in the wider mass vaccination programme at centres in the New Year.
Mr Blair told the board there had been developments in the “cold chain protocol” meaning Pfizer jabs could be stored between 2C and 8C for up to three-and-a-half days.
However, he confirmed as of this week that domiciliary care workers still had not had access to the vaccine.
Alan Downey, chairman of the South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust board, told councillors how there’d been a “phenomenal effort” by staff to roll out jabs – with workers getting up at 4am to defrost vaccines.
He conceded the vaccine “seemed to be in quite short supply” – however it is understood there have been no delays in deliveries of jabs to the trust.
Mr Downey added leaders were “watching nervously” to see what effect the Christmas relaxation of covid rules would have on demand.
However, he said the vaccine’s arrival had offered a welcome morale boost to under-pressure trust staff.
Mr Downey said: “To see the floods of mostly very elderly people coming through what looks a little bit like a MASH hospital – with lots of temporary partitions – has been a great effort and has given a great boost to the morale of people working.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands the plateau in covid demands at James Cook Hospital is continuing with 82 covid patients being treated across the trust with 10 in critical care.
Last week, health chiefs said Teesside would “probably” stay in the top tier of covid restrictions in the wake of the latest virus data.