Thu, 14 Jan 2021
IT may have been a while coming – but the first wave of vaccinations at Newbury Racecourse went like clockwork.
Organisers said that, within days, they hope to be innoculating up to 1,500 people per day against coronavirus.
Dr James Cave of The Downland Practice at Chieveley, who was clinically overseeing the operation, said on Thursday, January 14: “We’ve got 12 pods, each dealing with five-minute vaccination appointments. We should be able to vaccinate 1,000 people today and it’s just the start.
“There’s been no queueing and no waiting outside in the rain. The racecourse is a fantastic site and it’s great they’ve allowed us to use it.”
Dr Cave said that, while other areas may have been earlier in opening a vaccination project, the mass vaccination programme at Newbury Racecourse was proving so efficient that it would more than compensate.
The over 80s were first in line and the first vaccine dose provides up to 70 per cent protection after two weeks. It will be followed by a second dose which confers even greater immunity.
Dr Cave said: “It does not mean you can’t get coronavirus and you can still pass it on but, like the flu jab, it greatly reduces the severity of the illness. But this is a huge turning point – vaccination is the key to the way out of this. I’d like to thank all our fabulous volunteers, too.”
Among the first to be vaccinated was 94-year-old Sybil Benson from Thatcham.
She said: “They contacted me on Monday and I said ‘yes please!’."
Mrs Benson said she was looking forward to be able to enjoy the company of her three daughters, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren safely.
One of her daughters, Pauline Holborn from Newbury, said: “We kept hearing it was going to be rolled out but nothing seemed to be happening. It moved really quickly once we got the call. It’s brilliant news.”
Ninety-three-year-old Betty Sopp from Henwick said: “I only got the call on Monday and here I am. It’s such a relief.”
The chairman of the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Abid Irfan, said the vaccination programme had begun with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and added: “We’ll do 1,000 today but we should get that up to 1,500 a day, if we can get the supplies. But we’ll take what we’re given.”
The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, meanwhile, is better suited to the care home vaccination programme.
Dr Irfan said: “It’s more stable and doesn’t need reconstituting. I’m taking it to some care homes this afternoon. I’m now quite confident we will be able to get priority groups done on time. It’s gone very, very smoothly today. We’ve managed to establish a mass vaccination site with the help of local GPs and practice managers. And all the volunteers, of course.”
He urged people still waiting to be called to be patient and said: “We will contact you, so please don’t inundate our phone lines. We’ll get everybody booked in.”
Newbury MP Laura Farris, who dropped in to the launch, said: “It’s just amazing to see our most vulnerable and elderly coming here today for a life-saving vaccine. It’s great to see how smoothly it’s all going, with no queueing and plenty of social distancing. It’s actually quite moving.”
After receiving the vaccine, recipients are asked to sit quietly for 15 minutes in case of an allergic reaction.
These are expected to be extremely rare and there are facilities to deal with them if they occur.
Dr Cave said that, despite the early advice, people who carry an EpiPen adrenaline auto-injection can still be vaccinated.
He added: “The bottom line is that, if you’re allergic to a single thing like shellfish, nuts or stings, that’s not a reason not to have the jab.”
Dr Cave advised anyone concerned to seek medical advice beforehand.
Mrs Farris told NewburyToday yesterday: “"I’m now confident there is a stream of supply arriving in West Berkshire”.
Mrs Farris said she had received communication from NHS England’s vaccination team on future capacity.
She said: “The programme team are working to bring additional vaccine centres and community pharmacy sites in West Berkshire online.
“The locations have not been confirmed, but they have been selected to ensure coverage of the population and this work is being carried out at pace to rapidly step up capacity in the coming weeks”.
Mrs Farris said that challenges of transporting and storing the Pfizer vaccine had lead the three PCNs to set up a joint centre.
She said: “What I understand is that the decision was made by the PCNs to join the operator site rather than offer vaccines at GP surgeries, and that was because of the challenges with the Pfizer vaccine… so they made a decision in December to go and use Newbury Racecourse as a combined site.
“My understanding is that site required approval and before Christmas we knew it was coming on on the 11th of January.
“The Racecourse has to be specifically approved, it has to be made safe. You can’t just set up a venue and tell the NHS, the NHS have to have input in that venue and make sure they agree that it's safe, they have got the storage and the capacity, and the car parking and that patients can be processed safely".