First to receive their vaccines were Isles of Scilly care home residents and staff, followed by frontline health and care workers and then everyone in the first priority groups set by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI).
The arrival of the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine, which is easier to transport and handle, to the islands, means that every area in the south west now has access to a vaccine service.
The primary care team based on the Isles of Scilly has been working all hours alongside Helston Medical Centre, which is part of the south Kerrier primary care network and owns the contract for primary care services on the islands, to coordinate the arrival of the vaccine and the rollout with military precision, working with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group and Skybus.
Dr Chris Picken, a GP on the Isles of Scilly based at St Mary’s Health Centre, said: “We are delighted at the arrival of the vaccine. We have been working flat out to ensure that we can vaccinate as many of our most vulnerable as possible.
“Our aim is to offer the vaccination to the first 4 priority groups, based on the advice given by the JCVI, starting this weekend with our care home residents, health workers and 80 year olds, by the middle of the week.
“While the arrival of the vaccine offers the hope that we can start to return to the path of normality we know how, with our small population, now more than ever we cannot be complacent. The new strain is highly infectious and we must continue to follow lockdown rules and social distancing guidelines if we are to beat this deadly virus.”
Robert Francis, chairman of the Isles of Scilly, said the news of the rollout of the vaccine on the islands has come as a huge relief to the community.
He said: “We’re incredibly grateful to our health sector colleagues who have given such careful consideration to the islands’ needs and ensured that the vaccine is available so quickly despite the logistical challenges. 1 of the bright points to come out of this awful pandemic has been the close working between the council and our health partners, as well as the voluntary sector. The vaccine planning has been an excellent example of this integrated working. There’s still a long way to go, but the arrival of the vaccine marks an important step forwards in our fight against the pandemic.”
Dr John Garman, from Helston Medical Centre, said: “I cannot heap enough praise on everyone who has been involved with the safe arrival of the vaccine and the rollout of the programme to residents. From the south Kerrier primary network who have coordinated the delivery of the vaccine on the mainland of Cornwall to nurse Karen Brown who did almost a 100 mile round trip including 2 flights in less than 24 hours, to the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group and all the other health, local authority, carers and voluntary sector workers across agencies both on the islands and the mainland, who have stepped up to make it possible.
“This must be the most logistically challenging vaccine rollout in England and there is a great sense of joy and relief but we can’t underestimate the hard work that will continue to make sure all the priority group are offered the vaccine by the middle of the week.”
Rachel Wigglesworth, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly’s director of Public Health, said: “It’s great news that the vaccine has now reached the islands and the local primary care team have done a fantastic job of planning the rollout. Whilst the vaccine programme is rolling out we must keep up with all the good work we have been doing recently to limit the spread of the Virus. It’s really important that you please continue to limit your contact with other people, even after you have received the vaccine. The vaccine does not mean that you are immune immediately, so we can’t start hugging each other just yet, or stop following social distancing guidelines. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but in the meantime we must keep our guard up.”
For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly visit NHS Kernow’s dedicated COVID-19 vaccine page.