Since our last newsletter a few weeks ago there has been progress in our vaccination programme and some changes to the groups of people we are inviting. Please see below for the latest updates.
Who is currently being invited for vaccination?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have published the priority list that we are working through. The focus for these first weeks of vaccination was Groups 1-4 including everyone aged over 70.
By mid-February we moved onto Group 5, inviting patients aged 69. We were then told that Group 5 would be invited to the mass vaccination clinic at the Centre for Life in Newcastle, and that we should concentrate on Group 6. However, this is not an easy option for many patients. As a result we are now working through Groups 5 and 6 ourselves to ensure everyone is able to access the vaccine conveniently. Where patients are invited to the Centre for Life and can attend then we would encourage them to do so as this means we have more time and vaccine available to vaccinate other patients.
We will now start proactively calling patients who don't appear to have attended the Centre for Life. From 23rd February we are calling patients aged 67-69 along with patients in Group 6.
Over the next 2-3 weeks we expect to call patients aged 65-66 and to continue calling patients in Group 6.
Group 6 consists of patients aged 18-64 who are in an at-risk group and includes unpaid carers. We will be working through this group by age.
What about Carers and Key Workers?
Carers are included in Group 6 for vaccination. If you are in receipt of Carer's Allowance from the DWP then you will be receiving an invitation letter to book your appointment at a mass vaccination centre. You do not need to wait for this letter and can phone 119. If you do not receive Carer's Allowance then for now you will need to wait to be called by us.
At the moment Key Workers, including teachers and police officers, are not included in any of the Groups 1-9 and as such will not be invited for vaccination unless they are in one of the defined Groups (for example if they are aged over 50). We know that discussions are ongoing nationally about the prioritisation beyond Groups 1-9 but for now we have to follow existing groups and wait for any changes as they may come through.
Covid Vaccinations General Update
Since 29th December Burn Brae Medical Group and the Sele Medical Practice have been home to the local Covid-19 vaccination service. We are vaccinating our own patients as well as those from Bellingham Surgery, Haydon Bridge & Allendale, Haltwhistle, Wark & Humshaugh and Corbridge.
To date we have vaccinated over 12000 patients including those in care homes across our combined area.
The Practices are using a new appointment booking system just for these vaccinations. It allows every Practice to book their own patients into a combined clinic. As well as sending us their patients, these local Practices are also sending their staff to undertake the vaccinations and provide support with data-entry and marshals to guide patients through the vaccination process.
Our reception team are dealing with a high volume of very similar calls, so hopefully the articles below will answer any queries you may have about the vaccination programme here.
We continue to offer the majority of our services, even during lockdown and while hosting the vaccination service. Please do be understanding if you need to call.
How are patients being invited?
Because we get very little notice of the vaccine deliveries, it isn't possible for us to write to eligible patients with an appointment slot, or to write asking them to phone. That may change as the programme develops and we get more notice of deliveries.
For now, we typically learn what vaccine to expect the following week on a Tuesday afternoon. We then need to wait to find out what day of the week it will arrive. We then need to work out how many appointments each of the 7 Practices can have from that delivery and then arrange staffing of the clinics. Only once that is in place can we then begin inviting patients.
If we hold a mobile phone number for the patient then they will receive an invitation by text message. That message will contain the patient name and the name of the Practice and it will have a link that you can click to start the booking process. All you need to enter is your date of birth. You will then be able to select an appointment date and time. If you successfully book your appointment then that's all you have to do. Simply turn up at the right date and time. Please do not come early.
We are aware of reports nationally of scams where criminals try to get patients to pay for their vaccination or ask for bank details to "confirm identity". Please be assured we only ask you to confirm your date of birth. We will never ask for your bank details.
If we do not hold a mobile number for you, or if you do not respond to the text invitation, our staff will call you to arrange your appointment.
What about "Spare" doses?
Because the vaccines come in multi-dose vials there are sometimes a small number of doses remaining at the end of a clinic. We call in patients at short notice to receive their vaccination with these doses. These patients would be the next people due to be called for vaccination. Therefore we do not need people to offer to be on a reserve list for last minute vaccination.
What is it like in the clinic?
Our priority is delivering the vaccine safely, so a range of measures are in place during the clinics, such as social distancing, enhanced cleaning and the use of PPE. Your responsibility as a patient is to attend your appointment where possible but please do not come if you are unwell. As with any vaccination, if you are ill on the day we will not vaccinate you. If you have symptoms of covid-19 then you may be putting others at risk by attending. Your appointment can be rescheduled for our next clinic.
You will need to wear a face mask/covering at all times when you attend the clinic, unless you have a medical exemption. If you do not have a mask when you attend, one will be provided for you to wear
When you attend, the clinics can feel a bit different from one to the next depending on the amount and type of vaccine being used. We could be using from 4 to 12 rooms across the two Practices. Patients from all 7 Practices who attend will check in at a registration desk directly inside the entrance. Everyone attending will have a booked appointment and a corresponding booking form. Our marshals will guide the patient to one or other waiting room and the form will be placed in a box for the vaccination staff who will take patients into a consulting room for their vaccination. While everyone has a timed appointment we cannot say in advance who you will see or even which waiting room you will be directed to.
Your vaccinator will go through some questions with you and provide information on the vaccine. You will then be vaccinated and the whole process should take less than 5 minutes.
After vaccination you may be required to wait for 15 minutes. You will be provided with a leaflet about the vaccination and an appointment reminder card. Please note that there are some misconceptions about these cards. They are simple reminder cards, they are not some form of "vaccine passport". In theory when we give you your first vaccination we could provide your booster vaccination appointment at the same time. However because of the erratic nature of our deliveries and the move to a 3 month booster vaccination, we are not making the 3 month appointment until much nearer the time. We are assured however that vaccine will be provided so that everyone who has received their first vaccination will be given a booster at 3 months.
When will I receive my booster?
When we started vaccinating on 29th December we were also booking appointments for the booster vaccination 3 weeks later. By 31st December we were advised that the UK would be delaying the booster until 3 months. We have been instructed not to vaccinate anyone with their booster dose until 3 months, and that vaccinating at 3 weeks is not acceptable.
Once we are clear about the delivery of booster vaccines, as we approach 3 months since the first vaccines were given we will be contacting patients to arrange their booster appointment. There is no need to contact us unless you haven't heard from us 11-12 weeks after your first vaccination.
We are aware of rumours and social media posts that are inaccurate and may lead to worry or unrealistic expectations for our patients.
Contrary to what you may have heard, please do not contact your GP to find out when you will receive your vaccine. Please be patient.
If you are contacted to attend the Centre for Life which is hosting the local mass vaccination centre, please feel free to attend if you are able. We don't mind! However, if you cannot attend then that doesn't mean you are "struck off the list". You may be vaccinated sooner at the Centre for Life but you can wait to be vaccinated here.
Despite what you may have heard there is little to no wasted vaccine. At the end of a clinic if there any unused doses we call people from Groups 1-4 who haven't yet been vaccinated. Typically there are only a few such doses, so if you aren't in Groups 1-4 offering to be on a reserve list isn't going to get you vaccinated any quicker.
The clinics are timed to ensure that we don't have long queues outside. Depending on unexpected delays, it's possible you may need to sit and wait for a short while prior to vaccination. If you have the Pfizer vaccination the rule currently is that you have to wait for 15 minutes after vaccination before leaving.
Both the AstraZeneca (Oxford) and Pfizer vaccines have been shown to work well in all adult age groups. We do not know from week to week which vaccine will be delivered and patients are not able to choose which vaccine they receive. We would advise our patients to take up the offer of vaccination and not delay in the hope of having a specific vaccine at a later date.
Both vaccines are proven to be very safe. The AstraZeneca vaccine is preferred for people who have a strong history of serious allergic reactions.To date we have had no serious reactions to either vaccine and the evidence across the country is mounting that adverse reactions to these vaccines are not common.