Over 300,000 people vaccinated in Herts and west Essex

Over 300,000 people vaccinated in Herts and west Essex

From a church hall and a theatre, to a football ground and a night club, COVID vaccination sites across Hertfordshire and west Essex have opened their doors to more than 300,000 people since December. 

Latest figures, released on Thursday 18 February, show that 322,286 people in Hertfordshire and west Essex have received their first dose of the vaccine in one of over 40 vaccination sites in the area, either at GP-run sites, large vaccination centres, pharmacies or hospital hubs.

So far, a total of 180,866 (95%) of people aged 70 and over have received their first dose, alongside tens of thousands of health and care workers and patients who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

All care homes for older people have been visited by vaccination teams and those who are housebound have been contacted and offered the vaccine at home.

Pamela Kenny, 87 years old from Hertford, was pleased to get her vaccine at Robertson House in Stevenage. She said: “People were so kind. It’s been a good experience. Everybody has been so helpful and the wait has been short. Nothing to worry about.”

Barbara Denham, 83, who lives in Church Langley, said: “I was delighted to be one of the first to be invited in, and I would tell people there is nothing to be scared of and to just go for it.”

Nina Desai, 58, had nothing but praise for the Watford Town Hall vaccine centre when she received her first vaccination last week. She said: “It was all done in no time at all and there’s a lot of team spirit! I feel really happy to have it. I’d tell anyone who was nervous about getting it, don’t be. The centre feels very safe and welcoming.”

Across the vaccination programme, there are many examples of collaboration – turning halls, offices, sports and entertainment venues into vaccination sites, along with innovative ideas to protect the most vulnerable.

These include:

  • drive-through vaccine service at Batchwood night club in St Albans, enabling clinically extremely vulnerable people who have not left their homes for many months to get their vaccinations without leaving their vehicles
  • More than 3,500 signed-up volunteers helping with roles from car park marshalling to admin support
  • Special clinics for people with learning disabilities, offering longer appointments and more support
  • Firefighters, council staff, police officers and St John Ambulance staff supporting vaccination sites
  • Furloughed easyJet airline staff trained in basic life support, working as healthcare assistants to support clinical staff at vaccine sites

Dr Tara Belcher, a GP from Hitchin, said: “It’s been really hard work but it’s an absolute joy and a privilege to be part of the vaccine programme. We’ve had so much support from volunteers and the local community. And people are genuinely delighted to get their vaccine – some who haven’t been out of the house since March. We’ve received wonderful letters and messages of thanks. In a difficult year, this has been a huge morale boost for everyone. If you are one of those offered the jab, please come forward and help us protect you and those around you from this deadly virus.”

Dr Bruce Covell GP, of Parkbury House Surgery in St Albans and one of the organisers of the Batchwood site, said: “General Practices across St Albans have come together to work collaboratively to offer a community-focussed Covid vaccination service.  It has taken a huge team effort to turn around our premises, involving not only our practice and other NHS staff, but also St Albans District and Herts County Councils, voluntary agencies, the fire service, local police, local schools and supermarkets.”

Richard Boyce, GP at The Gold Street Surgery in Saffron Walden and Clinical Director of North Uttlesford Primary Care Network, said: “Patients have found the process at the Lord Butler Leisure Centre easy and simple, and have felt looked after during their visit, with many appreciating the opportunity to be vaccinated by their own GP team. We have been touched by the many letters of thanks in the papers during the past few weeks. This simply would not have been possible without the partnerships we have formed, and we’d like to offer a huge thank you to all of the volunteers who have helped make this happen.”

Anyone aged 70 or over, those people who are classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and front line health and social care staff who have not yet had their first COVID vaccination, are being asked to contact the NHS to book their jab. They can do this through the national booking system at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119 if they are unable to go online. If a suitable and convenient slot is not available, they can call their GP practice for an appointment at their local GP-led site instead.

While NHS teams continue to vaccinate any remaining people in the top four groups, more people will now be offered the vaccine. The next stage includes anyone aged 65 to 69 and people with a specified underlying health condition*. In addition, people who are caring for those at high risk from Covid-19, such as elderly or disabled people, will be offered the vaccine. More information about carers’ access to the vaccine will be coming out soon.

Health and care organisations are working on a range of initiatives to encourage anyone who may be hesitant about the vaccine to come forward for their jab. As well as outreach work in the community, there are information campaigns, webinars and interviews with faith leaders, staff and members of the public to help inform and reassure people about the safety of the vaccine.  More information about the vaccination, including links to information in a variety of languages, can be found here:  healthierfuture.org.uk/covid

Dr Jane Halpin, Chief Executive of the Hertfordshire and west Essex Clinical Commissioning Groups, thanked everyone involved: “We’re incredibly grateful for this immense team effort from everyone involved in the vaccine programme. In a short space of time, we’ve already protected hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable residents. We’re looking forward to building on this success and giving the first dose to thousands more patients in the weeks and months ahead, as well as making sure that people get their second doses on time.”

Notes to editors

*The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has set out the list of people with underlying health conditions as follows:

  • Chronic respiratory disease
  • Chronic heart disease and vascular disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic neurological disease, including severe or profound learning disability
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Immunosuppression
  • Asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen
  • Morbid obesity
  • Severe mental illness

In this next phase, GPs have been asked to offer jabs to people with underlying health conditions, while people aged 65 and over will in the first instance be invited to book a vaccination at one of the large vaccination centres. If somebody aged 65 to 69 wants to be vaccinated at their local GP-led site, they can wait to be called by their local GP practice.

Anyone in Hertfordshire who has booked their COVID-19 vaccination but is unable to make their own transport arrangements can get help through a service that has been put in place by the East of England Ambulance Service, Hertfordshire County Council and local NHS clinical commissioning groups. People can call 0300 790 6254 (Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm) to ask for support to get to their appointment. However, people should only call this number once they have made their vaccination appointment. The service operates seven days a week.