First Covid-19 vaccines rolled out in Blackpool one year ago today

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A year ago today, a ray of hope shone down on the Fylde coast as the first doses of the Covid-19 vaccination were rolled out following months of uncertainty and lockdown struggles.

Agnes Lovatt, 82, was the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine at Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s vaccination hub on December 8 2020.

Since then, 89 per cent of eligible patients living in Blackpool, have received their first jab, with numbers raising to 99 per cent for people over the age of 50, according to the CCG.

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Some 2,692 children aged 12 to 15 (43 per cent), and 1,860 aged 16 and 17 (61 per cent) are included in the overall figures.

The vaccination centre at the Winter GardensThe vaccination centre at the Winter Gardens
The vaccination centre at the Winter Gardens

In Fylde and Wyre, 91 per cent of eligible patients have received their first vaccination, including 4,139 children aged 12 to 15 (48 per cent) and 2,790 children aged 16 and 17 (70 per cent).

In total, 1,285,115 patients in Lancashire have been given their first jab.

Dr Arif Rapjura, Director of Public Health at Blackpool Council, said: “There is no doubt that we are in privileged position in terms of the vaccinations we have available here in the UK.

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“The vaccination programme has been a resounding success, the statistics speak for themselves. Some 72 per cent of residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose. Without this we know the number of people being treated in hospital would be far higher.

Volunteer vaccinator Stan Ralph with 87-year-old Michael Doidge.Volunteer vaccinator Stan Ralph with 87-year-old Michael Doidge.
Volunteer vaccinator Stan Ralph with 87-year-old Michael Doidge.

“In the past year a quarter of a million vaccinations have been given in Blackpool. This couldn’t have been possible without the joint efforts of all the local agencies and the many, many volunteers who stepped up to help. I am so grateful to every single person that has been a part of our efforts to protect local residents.

“Vaccinations continue to be our main defence in the fight against Covid. I urge anyone who hasn’t yet received one to visit our vaccine bus to discuss with the team any concerns they may have. It is also important that people that are eligible get the Covid-19 booster vaccine which an additional vaccine dose to people who have previously received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to ensure continued protection.”

In Blackpool, 81 per cent of eligible patients have received their second dose of the vaccination, with numbers increasing to 84 per cent in Fylde and Wyre.

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Blackpool CCG has administered 35,956 booster shots so far while Fylde and Wyre CCG has administered 66,608 to help improve the protection provided by the first two doses of the vaccine.

Dr Neil Hartley-Smith, clinical director for the Fylde Coast CCGs, said: “December 2020 saw the UK become the first country to rollout a Covid-19 vaccination programme, a programme that is the largest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS. The resilience of the staff involved and their steadfast approach to this delivery has been extraordinary.

“Grateful thanks must also go to the countless volunteers who have provided the NHS with welcome assistance.

“The vaccination has offered good protection against the Alpha and Delta variants, reducing the rates of serious illness and death significantly and the public are encouraged to have their booster dose when called. Work continues to study the effectiveness of the vaccine against the Omicron variant, but people should not be hesitant on getting their booster as the main variant in circulation is the Delta variant.

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“Whilst it is impossible to say what life would be like without the vaccine, I think it is safe to say we would have seen greater restrictions on free movement in the form of extended lockdowns, along with seeing greater levels of serious illness and death.”

The roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine formed a huge operation spanning the whole of the Fylde coast.

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was among the first hospitals to receive the Pfizer vaccine, one week after it was approved by regulators. Since then, it has given more than 50,000 vaccination doses including more than 21,000 first doses, more than 21,000 second doses, and more than 9,000 boosters.

People aged 80 and over, as well as care workers, were given top priority at first as temporary vaccine hubs were set up all over the coast, while pharmacies leading the way at AFC Fylde, Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish Centre in St Annes, Moor Park Health and Wellbeing Centre and Fleetwood Health and Wellbeing Centre.

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The Winter Gardens was transformed into a mass vaccine centre for months to keep up with demands, while some dedicated medical staff stepped out of retirement to adminster the injections.

Now, following the announcement that the Government is set to make boosters available to more people to protect them against the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, local hubs are preparing for a busy winter.

Susan Wild, programme lead of vaccination and testing at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, said: “The hospital was among the first in the country to set up a vaccination hub and begin offering the vaccine to the public.

“It takes a minimum of 12 staff, both operational and clinical, to run the unit each day and since then we’ve had more than 70 different staff members work in the unit. These have included staff from across the Trust: including people who have retired and returned to help, and colleagues who have been redeployed from elsewhere. It’s been a real team effort.

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“The vaccination rollout has had a significant impact – the UK Health Security Agency estimates that, as of 24 September, more than 125,000 deaths and 24 million infections have been prevented as a result of the programme. It’s a real privilege to have played a part in that.

“Our staff from the vaccination hub have some wonderful memories of the support they’ve been able to offer people – we’ve been able to reassure vulnerable patients, support elderly people at the start of the pandemic who had missed having face-to-face contact so much, and it was great to see all the volunteer blood bikers and have the opportunity to thank them for their work.

“The vaccination programme across Lancashire and South Cumbria is once again expecting to step up over the winter after the Government announced it would be making vaccinations and boosters available to more cohorts of people soon, so we are getting ready to support this in any way we can. We’ve got an experienced team who are ready for the challenge.”