The Chief Executive of the Western Trust today revealed that Foyle Arena will be used as the main facility in Derry to administer the Coronavirus vaccine.
Dr Anne Kilgallen, Chief Executive, said the Trust is preparing to roll out the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme – Phase 1, which is for Health and Social Care (HSC) staff.
The plan at the moment is to begin on December 14.
The programme is for HSC employees, plus workers in the Independent Sector, Domiciliary Care, Nursing Home Staff, Care Home Staff, Community Pharmacists, Opticians, Dentists, Hospice, GPs and staff.
Dr Kilgallen said: “We will be using Pfizer ‘Courageous’ vaccine which requires two doses to be administered.
“We will operate from 3 venues: Foyle Arena and the Leisure Centres at Omagh and Enniskillen, but not every venue will operate every day.
“Our plan is to deliver the vaccination programme using 2 vaccination teams, operating 7 days per week, excluding Christmas and New Year and to have both doses administered by the end of January 2021.”
Seeking to assure the public about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride and Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Ian Young released a joint statement today.
They said 'vaccines have changed our world' and explained that they have been successfully deployed against a wide range of diseases including smallpox, polio, measles and flu.
Dr McBride and Prof Young commented: “They have saved many millions of lives.
“So the confirmation of the UK’s first regulatory approval for a Covid-19 vaccine is hugely significant.
“The decision by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has only been taken after rigorous assessment of both safety and effectiveness.
“The decision on the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was made with advice from the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM), the government’s independent expert scientific advisory body.
“As the MHRA has emphasised strongly, public safety has always been the overriding priority.
“It is important to stress that the MHRA is globally recognised for requiring high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness for any vaccine.”
They added: “The pace at which Covid-19 vaccines have been developed is unprecedented. That’s a reflection of the global emergency which the virus caused – and the scale of the response from scientists, supported by massive public and private investment.
“We were already living in an age of unparalleled and rapid technological advancement. The scientific community has just raised the bar even further.
“An unprecedented vaccination programme can now begin, involving a massive logistical exercise that will span many months.”
Strict conditions on vaccine deployment will be set by the MHRA, while the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) will guide on which population groups should receive the vaccine first.
The roll-out will take up a large part of 2021.
The JCVI recognises there will have to be some flexibility in terms of operational constraints, due to the characteristics of individual vaccines.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine poses particular logistical challenges and is likely to be best suited to large scale vaccination centres, the medical chiefs said.
Forthcoming alternative vaccines should be more suitable for mobile unit deployment to individual care homes.
They continued: “Our advice to the public is to look to the future with a mixture of optimism, determination and patience.
“The vaccine programme will take time and we will all have to wait our turn, as priority groups are given their place.
“As we do so, we must all redouble our efforts against the spread of the virus. Please keep following public health advice – this is just as essential now as it was when we first heard the word Coronavirus.
“2020 has been an incredibly difficult year and the first half of 2021 will require more sacrifice and more disruption to our daily lives.
“We can get through this if we all keep doing the right thing – to look after each other and protect the health service.
“Better times are ahead – let’s get there together.”
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