Explained: How the Covid vaccine is being rolled out in Suffolk

Nurse Hayley Kirk. The first Ipswich covid vaccinations are being administered at Two Rivers Medical

A second coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in the UK. Pictured: the first Covid-19 vaccines being administered by Nurse Hayley Kirk at Two Rivers Medical Centre, Ipswich. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Almost 10,000 people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in Suffolk and north Essex so far, it can be revealed. 

Six GP surgeries have administered nearly 6,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab and a further 4,000 have been given out by Colchester Hospital over the past few weeks.  

Each giving out 975 jabs, the GP sites have included Swan Surgery (Bury St Edmunds), Woolpit Health Centre, Two Rivers Medical Centre (Ipswich), Ivry Street Medical Practice (Ipswich), St Helena Hospice Tendring (Clacton) and Colchester Primary Care Centre. 

It comes amid fresh hopes of a return to normal life later this year as the first vials of the Oxford/Astra-Zeneca vaccine were distributed in the UK.

NHS staff at both Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals are also set to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the coming days, after problems with freezer storage delayed administration of the jab until now.

Doctors, nurses and hospital staff are receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Doctors, nurses and hospital staff are receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine - Credit: ESNEFT

Although the region’s three hospitals and six GP surgeries all now have the vaccine, our analysis of NHS data reveals more than 520,000 people in Suffolk and north Essex live in areas where there are currently no vaccination centres. 

Affected districts include Matt Hancock’s own West Suffolk constituency, plus Suffolk Coastal and Central Suffolk and north Ipswich, which have populations of 121,051, 103,851 and 102,808 respectively, although those in line for the vaccine in north Ipswich face only a short trip across town.  

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Suffolk NHS chiefs, who acknowledge vaccine supply has so far been limited, say that another 14 GP surgery hubs will go live, expected to offer both Oxford and Pfizer, by next Monday (January 11).  

There will be nine in the Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning area, four in West Suffolk and one in North East Essex. 

The vaccine rollout is expected to be boosted even further by the creation of 16 ‘vaccination centres’, based in larger venues such as sports centres.

The first, at Gainsborough Sports Centre, has an anticipated go-live date of January 18, delayed from an expected opening date before Christmas. 

Health bosses have moved to reassure people desperate for the jab that their time will come, with a CCG spokesman adding: “We understand people are anxious to find out when they will be vaccinated.

"At the moment, we are only able to vaccinate people who are 80 years old and over.  

Gainsborough Sports Centre football pitch posts

A vaccination centre is expected to go live at Gainsborough Sports Centre in mid-January - Credit: Gregg Brown

“Please be rest assured, that even if you are 80+ and haven’t received a call from your GP surgery, you will eventually get that call.  

“The position is that we still haven’t had enough vaccines to vaccinate everybody in that cohort, so we are having to do it on a priority basis i.e. the older you are, the more likely you are to be called forward first.

"If you have pre-existing medical conditions, that pushes you up the list as well.” 

Health bosses say the aim is to reach a point where everybody lives less than a half an hour away from a vaccination centre in Suffolk and north Essex.  

Now that the Oxford vaccine is here, vaccination of frontline NHS, social care staff and care home residents can begin in earnest, they added. 

Orthopaedic practitioner Jamie Roberts was the first person to receive the vaccine at Ipswich Hospital

Orthopaedic practitioner Jamie Roberts was the first person to receive the vaccine at Ipswich Hospital - Credit: ESNEFT

NHS chiefs said that although numbers of official centres may seem low, patients from up to five nearby surgeries have been offered jabs at Swan Surgery, for instance, ensuring a wider area is covered. 

Eventually, it is hoped there will be 16 vaccination centres and 20 GP surgery hubs, alongside the three hospital sites.