A SCALING-up of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Dumfries and Galloway is underway and 14 GP practices are now set to help deliver jabs.
Twenty-two venues, in the form of town halls and sports centres, are already being employed by NHS teams to vaccinate the over 80s.
In the second week of January 4,000 vaccinations were done, thanks in significant part to the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine which does not have the same storage or transportation requirements as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
As of last Wednesday 11,448 people had been vaccinated.
Arrangements have now been finalised which will allow about half the region’s GP practices to support an expansion of this work.
They will give jabs to eligible recipients where it has been mutually agreed it can be safely delivered and without affecting the practices’ day-to-day services.
Julie White, Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership chief officer, said: “A huge amount of work has taken place in a short space of time to get the vaccination campaign rolled out as quickly as possible in line with the Scottish government’s directions.
“The existing 22 locations, which have been secured, help fulfil the objective of giving vaccinations to as many people as possible, quickly, and in the safest way.
“This maximises staffing resources which are being significantly tested by the current circumstances.
“GP practices are playing a key role in arranging appointments for those eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination.
“However, work has also been taking place to see whether it might be possible for some practices to play a role in delivering vaccines, while allowing them to provide essential day-to-day services.
“I’m very happy to say that it has been agreed to mutual satisfaction that vaccinations will be able to be delivered safely and without affecting their day-to-day services at 14 participating GP practices.
“This represents about half the total GP practices in the region.
“This will help to expand the locations where vaccines can be delivered as part of a mixed model of delivery, using a combination of larger and smaller venues.
“It will also allow the rate of vaccinations to increase as allowed by vaccine supplies.
“We are hugely grateful for the role being played by these 14 practices and all the practices in the region which play a variety of important roles in addressing this pandemic.”
Community nurses have also been vaccinating those who are housebound.
In an acceleration of the programme and in line with national directions vaccinations for the over 70s are now set to be done in the first two weeks of February, instead of running through the month.
Arrangements for other recipient groups, as identified by the government, will be given in due course, with a request that no one gets in touch about their own vaccination arrangements.
Information on vaccinations is available on the national helpline, which is open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week on 0800 030 8013.
Ms White added: “It is very important that people understand a vaccination does not deliver immediate immunity from COVID-19 or remove the need to continue to follow directions on face-coverings, hygiene and physical distancing.
“Immunity takes several weeks to develop from the first jab, which is followed by a second.
“Until such time as widespread immunity is developed, all rules need to continue to be followed.”
Jeff Ace, NHS Dumfries & Galloway chief executive, also stressed the need for people to continue following the restrictions.
He said: “It seems wrong, when we’ve had such a great public response and when numbers are dropping, to ask people to go further and do more but it really is vital they do.
“What we’re seeing now is proof that people hold the power to affect the trajectory of this outbreak.
“The truth is that, what happens in Dumfries and Galloway, is down to every one of us.
“Two weeks ago we had up to 70 cases in hospital at a single point, which may not sound a lot in national terms but has a huge impact on a small region like ours with much smaller-scale systems.
“Even with this fall in numbers, it will take time for that to translate into fewer cases needing urgent treatment.
“If we level out at these current rates, it’ll be incredibly difficult to sustain or to see an immediate path out of lockdown because cases would likely take off again from a far higher starting point than when this outbreak began.
“So many people in this outbreak experience very minor symptoms but this doesn’t mean it won’t potentially cause serious illness to anyone they expose to the virus.”
Mr Ace added: There is evidence of wide community transmission and that people identified as close contacts of cases develop COVID-19.”