ROLLOUT of the Covid vaccine is now underway in north Oxford with hundreds of jabs being delivered from a school gym.

Patients who have been shielding since March were among the first to get the Pfizer vaccine yesterday as part of work by Summertown Health Centre, 19 Beaumont Street Surgery and Banbury Road Medical Centre.

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The surgeries are also expecting to start delivering the Oxford vaccine at care homes in the city from Monday as part of accelerating efforts to protect the most vulnerable.

Oxford Mail:

Dr John Monach, co-clinical director of the primary care network (PCN) which encompasses the three surgeries, said staff were 'extremely excited' to finally be vaccinating patients at Cherwell School after things got off to a 'false start' last month.

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The surgeries had been provisionally listed by NHS England to begin administering jabs in December as part of a first wave like several other city practices, but were forced to cancel appointments with hundreds of vulnerable patients after the PCN was removed at the last minute.

Oxford Mail: Dr John Monach. Picture: Ed NixDr John Monach. Picture: Ed Nix

Dr Monach said: "We were put on the provisional list with 10 days notice and at seven days we decided we had to start booking in appointments for our vulnerable patients to give them enough time to plan.

"I think we surprised ourselves at how angry it made us, having to ring people up and cancel something they had been waiting for for so long. It was devastating."

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Despite this early setback, the GP praised the coordination between practices as the best he has ever experienced, as well as the support from Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and the community to get the vaccine out to those most in need.

Oxford Mail:

Dr Monach said everywhere from churches to community centres had offered to act as a venue for vaccinating and that Cherwell School had 'bent over backwards' to aid the set up in their school gym this week.

Around 1,170 people are set to get the jab at the site over Friday and Saturday, with the space allowing for social distancing and good ventilation due to its high ceilings.

The doctor also said he was confident in the medical evidence for spacing out the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which was changed on December 30 from 21 days to up to 12 weeks, despite it having not been tested this way in clinical trials.

Oxford Mail:

Dr Monach said: "It is really difficult, we criticise the people above us all the time but for all of their faults they're trying to act in the best interests of us as a nation."

He added, however, that he understood GP practices who had already administered first doses were in a difficult position in being asked to 'break the trust' of vulnerable patients booked in for a second jab.

The GP said: "Our patients have been very understanding, and I think they are very well informed."

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Dr Monach added his PCN were also planning to begin vaccinating with the Oxford jab at care homes in the city on Monday and Tuesday, and once more doses were available it could be rolled out very rapidly as the vaccine does not need a 15-minute observation period after it is administered.

The first person in the world vaccinated with the Oxford University jab outside of a clinical trial was 82-year-old dialysis patient Brian Pinker, who received it at the city's Churchill Hospital on Monday.

Oxford Mail:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking on Thursday, said: "For the first three days with the Oxford vaccine, we did it in hospitals to check that it was working well and it’s working well so now we can make sure that it gets to all those GP surgeries that like this one can do all the vaccinations that are needed.

“The rate-limiting step is the supply of vaccine. We’re working with the companies – both Pfizer and AstraZeneca – to increase the supply.”

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Nearly 1.5 million people in the UK have already been vaccinated with the Pfizer and Oxford University vaccines, with the Government aiming to get 15 million of those most at risk by mid-February.

A third Covid vaccine, the Moderna jab, was also approved by UK regulators yesterday.