Vaccination of health and care staff Island-wide will begin on 4 January 2021, ensuring a smooth and efficient roll-out of the biggest programme of its type ever undertaken in the Isle of Man.
The first batch of the world’s first proven safe and effective vaccine against coronavirus arrived in the Island last Wednesday (16 December) and is safely and securely stored at minus 70 degrees. Each of the two trays received contains 975 doses of the vaccine, and under current protocols trays cannot be split. This means almost 1000 doses must be defrosted, carefully transported and prepared for putting into arms within a limited time frame.
In order to proceed, a number of complex legal issues and professional authorisations from paperwork only made available by the UK in the last working week, need to be finalised. This is a highly challenging process for which there is no precedent, and cannot be rushed.
Modelling by the department’s Vaccination Programme Board has concluded that three days are required to deliver vaccine to the first cohort of recipients and six weeks in total for the first few priority groups, depending on vaccine delivery.
Health and Social Care Minister David Ashford said:
‘We had thought it might be possible to start vaccinating from Monday, but with a small number of critical issues outstanding, the practical option is to start on the next available date, 4 January when these issues will have been resolved. It is not sensible to start with so little margin in the immediate run-up to Christmas Day, and we will not rush things during an already very busy period for our health services.
I must reassure everyone the final details are focused on the roll-out clinical protocols amended from the UK to suit the Isle of Man, and not the vaccine itself. Patient safety is about much more than the treatment or drug received – it spans the whole process of providing health services, involving practitioners and professionals at many levels.
The Minister added:
‘We have written to medically vulnerable and high priority groups within DHSC staff, care home and other social care staff, inviting them to register for a vaccine. Appointments are now being given for this cohort from 4 January 2021. During the coming week, registration for all other health and care staff and care home workers will begin, with the roll-out for care home residents starting thereafter.
‘The team has worked tirelessly to put everything in place for the vaccination programme. Training has been completed for current vaccinators and new operating procedures for each step of the process are in place. Consent forms and checklists are prepared, IT systems are set up to record vaccinations and update patient records, and our reporting and oversight procedures are ready. Newlands, the former ward 20 at Noble’s which served so well as an intermediate care centre during the pandemic, has been reconfigured to receive staff for vaccination. This site will be used initially and then ultimately the airport hub as we receive more vaccines on the Island. A full walk-through of all operational processes was also completed last week.’
The Isle of Man’s vaccination programme mirrors that underway in the United Kingdom, following priority groups as set out by UK Government advisory body the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisations. Health and care staff will be vaccinated first, followed by care home residents and the over-80s, with other defined groups to follow. People in each priority group will be contacted to register for a vaccination and residents are encouraged to respond swiftly once invited to come forward. Individuals should not phone 111 to book a vaccination until they are invited to call.
New web pages containing information about the vaccine and the Island’s delivery programme as well as links to a wealth of expert articles and research is live at www.gov.im/covidvaccination with additional content being added on an ongoing basis.
Leaflets, public notices and high-profile advertising are prepared and will continue over the months ahead to keep the Island’s population informed about COVID-19 vaccines.
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency whose Chief Executive Dr June Raine, speaking this month, said:
‘We have carried out a rigorous scientific assessment of all the available evidence of quality, safety and effectiveness. The public’s safety has always been at the forefront of our minds – safety is our watchword.
‘We are globally recognised for requiring high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness for any vaccine. Our expert scientists and clinicians worked tirelessly, around the clock, carefully, scientifically, robustly and rigorously poring over hundreds of pages and tables of data, methodically reviewing the data.
‘Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. They save millions of lives worldwide.’