Somerset’s first patient receives the COVID-19 vaccine, as NHS vaccination programme is launched

Following the very first deliveries of the approved Pfizer vaccine, the Somerset-wide COVID-19 vaccination programme for those in the highest priority groups, has begun at Yeovil Hospital, as part of the biggest vaccination programme in history.

The hospital is part of the initial wave of 50 hospital hubs, announced last weekend that is providing the first vaccinations across the country.   

Today, it has begun vaccinating people from the most vulnerable groups which includes patients aged 80 and above, who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, and care home staff who look after some of the most vulnerable people in Somerset. Any appointments not used for the initial groups at the hospital will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Members of the Yeovil Hospital vaccination team, and Shelagh Meldrum, Chief Nurse at Yeovil Hospital pictured far right

Since the Pfizer vaccine was given the green light from regulators last week, Somerset health and care organisations have been working around the clock to manage the huge logistical challenge of deploying the vaccine. 

Yeovil Hospital’s Chief Nurse, Shelagh Meldrum, said “As one of the country’s designated hospital hubs we are proud to be part of the biggest and most highly anticipated immunisation campaigns in history.

“Thanks to an incredible amount of hard work and planning with staff and all health and care partners across the county, we have been able to start the vaccination programme in Somerset with the priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.”

Andy Heron, joint senior responsible officer for the mass vaccination programme in Somerset, said: “This is an incredibly important day for us in Somerset as we begin vaccinating the highest priority groups in our county.

“Making the COVID-19 vaccination available is one of the most important health interventions of recent years and the NHS, primary and social care, the council and the voluntary sector are working together to roll out the programme in Somerset in a phased way, in line with national guidance.”

Jean Cook receiving the vaccine

Jean Cook, age 84, from Yeovil, who became one of the first patients to have their vaccination in Somerset, said:

“I’m so pleased to be one of the first people in the world to receive this vaccine. I hope everyone will take the opportunity to get vaccinated when it is offered to them, so we can start getting back to normal and put this pandemic behind us.”

Further plans for the local NHS vaccination programme are currently being drawn up, to ensure that the wider population across Somerset can access the vaccine in line with national guidance and as vaccine is available. This includes delivering it in a number of locations to enable easier access for as many people as possible, including large county sites, community sites in locations across the county, hospital hubs, some GP surgeries and via teams of mobile vaccinators for those who cannot leave their homes.

Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health at Somerset County Council added  “It’s great news that the first Somerset residents and health and care workers are receiving Covid vaccinations this week. We are working closely with health colleagues to roll out the vaccination programme across Somerset, which will run from now into 2021.

“This is a real turning point in our fight against the disease. However, even with the great and very welcome news of the vaccination rollout, we still can’t afford to be complacent. Covid is still here in our communities. Therefore, please remember we must all continue to abide by the ‘hands, face and space’ rules to prevent further spread.”

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used.

As plans progress across Somerset, the public have an important part to play to help:

  • please don’t contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, we will contact you;
  • when we do contact you, please attend your booked appointments;
  • and please continue to follow all the guidance to control the virus and save lives

Further information on the roll out of the NHS vaccination programme in Somerset