By Dr Andrew Davies, Clinical Chief Officer, NHS Halton Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Warrington Clinical Commissioning Group

OUR NHS teams have been working incredibly hard over the past few weeks to deliver coronavirus vaccines in our two GP-led community vaccination centres and at our care homes, at the same time as providing care to all those who need it and deal with the rising number of Covid cases.

Due to the amazing efforts of local healthcare staff and volunteers, the vaccination programme in Warrington is off to a strong start.

We have made good progress vaccinating those over 80. By the end of this week, all residents in our care homes for older adults will receive their first dose of the vaccine and we have vaccinated staff at St Rocco’s Hospice.

Our hospital hubs are also doing a fantastic job ensuring our frontline health and care staff are getting their first dose of the vaccine, so they are protected against the virus.

However, this is the biggest vaccination programme the NHS has ever undertaken. It is a huge challenge, and not everything will always go perfectly.

We understand those in the highest priority groups may have felt frustrated waiting to be contacted about the vaccine but please know the appointments that we have been able to offer have been based on the supply of vaccine we have received.

We are continuing to work as hard as possible to ensure all our over 80s are offered the vaccine in the coming weeks. If you are over 80 and have not yet had an appointment, then we are asking these patients only to contact their practices to arrange an appointment.

This week, we will start the process of inviting those over 70 and in the clinically extremely vulnerable group to be vaccinated. This is supported by the recent approval and rollout of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, more GP practices and some pharmacies offering the vaccine and the opening of the Cheshire and Merseyside mass vaccination centre at the Totally Wicked Stadium in St Helens earlier this week. All this means that we are on track to offer first doses of the vaccine to everyone in Halton and Warrington who is in the top four priority groups by the middle of February.

It is important to mention though that if you are offered the vaccine at a mass vaccination centre, you do not have to get it there if you don’t want to. If you can’t travel or you would rather wait for an appointment closer to home, you can choose to do that, and your local GP-led service will be in touch soon.

Our NHS staff in Warrington are doing an incredible job and at the same time continuing to be there for everyone who needs care. The public have an important part to play to help them do this:

n Please, unless you are over 80, don’t contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, we will contact you;

n when we do contact you, please attend your booked appointments at exactly the time you’re asked to, so that we can avoid queues in this cold weather;

n Pplease continue to follow all the guidance to control the virus and save lives.

Finally, as a doctor I also want to provide reassurance to anyone who has any concerns about receiving the vaccine. The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said that both of these vaccines have good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection, and I have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.

As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products.

There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population.  

Please remember, the vaccine is your best protection from the virus.