All systems go as West Midlands prepares for vaccine roll out

Vaccinations are on their way to the West Midlands – and health and care staff will be the first to receive the jab.

Details today emerged of how the vaccination operation will work in our region.

Hospital staff are set to be the first to benefit next week and could be sent to either Walsall Manor Hospital or Royal Stoke University Hospital.

Elderly patients inside hospitals are also likely to receive a vaccine and then care homes are likely to be prioritised, possibly as soon as Monday December 14.

And once mass vaccination is established, a network of centres across the region are expected to be set up. The Black Country Living Museum, Villa Park and Malvern’s Three Counties’ Showground have already been highlighted as potential sites. It is believed university campuses in the region will also be used.

Storage issues over the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have led to the decision to start the vaccinations within hospitals.

Walsall Manor and Royal Stoke University hospitals are being used as main vaccination centres in the West Midlands, as they have the facilities required to store the vaccine at -70C.

It is understood that Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust will be responsible for vaccinating staff from all health trusts in the Black Country and West Birmingham.

More Covid-19 coverage:

Batches of the vaccination are being brought over by ferry from factories in Belgium and are now being distributed across the UK. It is expected that mass testing can start in earnest when the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is approved. It can be stored in a normal refrigerator, allowing it to be moved across the community safely.

Bosses at the Black Country Living Museum are in talks over their site in Dudley becoming a centre.

Grant Bird, head of audiences and communications at the museum, said conversations were currently “ongoing” regarding the museum becoming a vaccine site.

He said: “Our intention will be to continue with the outdoor only December programme we have running.

The Black Country Living Museum is expected to become a mass vaccination centre

"We’re also putting together final plans for our 2021 visitor programme – which will be subject to tier rules and reviewed in line with any changes to tiers announced by the Government.

“We genuinely have no idea when the vaccine site could come to the museum – the NHS is looking at it from a logistic point of view at the moment.”

Wolverhampton’s director of public health, John Denley, said the roll out of the vaccine was one of the biggest logistical challenges ever faced by the NHS. He said it was a huge learning process.

The scale of the challenge was outlined by public health boss Stephen Gunther, who suggested more than 400,000 jabs would be needed over the next six months in the borough of Walsall alone.

Delight at vaccination news

Leaders across the West Midlands have hailed the scientists responsible for the Pfizer/BioTech vaccine.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said he could not confirm what day the jab would arrive in the West Midlands, but reiterated that the region would receive its "fair share" of the vaccine at the same time as all other areas across the UK.

Mr Street was speaking at the weekly virtual briefing of the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Clive Wright, the Covid-19 regional convener for the West Midlands, added: "The news of the first vaccine being approved is really encouraging, and we are now hopefully at the beginning of the end in our fight against Covid-19. However, it will take some time to roll out the vaccine, and so we must continue to follow the rules.

Lola Abudu of Public Health England for the West Midlands said: "The immunisation programme is a huge step forward in our fight against coronavirus - it shows hope and great promise and to vaccine is the best way to protect the most vulnerable saving tens of thousands of lives.

"We'll vaccinate those who are most at risk first and those who work closest with them. We must all continue to be patient, this is an immense national endeavour. The vaccine is just one weapon in our armoury and it will be some time before we can begin to relax our guard."

Meanwhile, leader of Birmingham City Council Ian Ward called for an end to the "dangerous" rumours being spread that the vaccination is not safe.

He said: "Vaccinations work. The smallpox vaccination has already saved more lives than those lost in the Second World War, and we know that some of these illnesses kill and they can have debilitating effects on peoples lives so if we're going to conquer this virus and return to normal life then we need people to come forward and take the vaccination.

"That is the route out of this crisis and I would encourage everyone, when their turn comes, to come forward and have the vaccination."

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