Preparations underway for huge vaccination program in Walsall

NHS chiefs in Walsall are gearing up for the biggest challenge in their history to administer hundreds of thousands of coronavirus vaccines in six months.

Health partners across the borough hope to start the huge programme in the middle of December with planning and co-ordination well under way now.

Stephen Gunther, Walsall’s director of public health, suggested more than 400,000 jabs would be needed in the borough, but precise figures are yet to be confirmed for any part of the country.

Patients need two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved for use by medical regulators this week, and Walsall has a population of around 285,000.

At a meeting of Walsall’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board, members were told healthcare workers and the most vulnerable would be the first to be offered the jab.

And residents are also being urged to take the vaccine when they are offered it and assured it is safe.

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A report to last month’s meeting said they were preparing to begin phase one of the vaccination programme by mid-December and this week bosses said plans were moving forward, with more detail to come.

Mr Gunther said: “We’re talking over 400,000 vaccinations for Walsall over that period. That’s the scale we are dealing with.

“We can get the logistics, we can get the staff, we can get the vaccine here. The real important task is about people turning up and taking the vaccination.

“Encourage people to take it up when it comes because that’s really important.

“We want to manage the coronavirus outbreak so we can get on with many other things we want to do for the residents of Walsall to make happier and healthier lives.”

Darren Fradgley, deputy chief executive of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “It’s without exception the biggest task and challenge that the NHS and care partners will face.

“We’ve never done a vaccination programme of this size before and as a result, there is quite a lot of coordination going on for how partners respond to that because the task is so large.

“The plans we are working through at the minute will obviously start with protecting and vaccinating the most vulnerable parts of our population.

“Obviously, vaccinating health and care staff who are delivering care to those most vulnerable members of the population will be at the forefront of the planning.

“The plan will also include delivery to housebound patients so don’t worry about the fact you can’t leave your home because of illness or injury. We will absolutely make sure you are covered.

“It is going to be six-month programme. All of the vaccines need to be delivered twice so you don’t just get it once like the flu jab. You have to have a second vaccination.”

Mr Fradgley added it was important people continued to get their flu jab whilst the programme is running as they’d need space of more than seven days before they could safety take the Covid vaccine.

Dr Anand Rischie, chairman of Walsall clinical commissioning group, added: “I’ve previously said I’m a strong believer in science and whatever science tells me.

“The evidence is now out and has been published and peer reviewed. I’m very confident in the safety of the vaccine.

“It’s a vaccine that has shown good effectiveness. As soon as I get the shout, I’ll be rolling up the sleeves on my arm to have it.

“If this is what it takes to make it believable, I’ll be the first one to have it. I think it’s important for my family, my patients and colleagues to follow that.”

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