“One of the nicest presents I’ve had” – Walsall grandmother receives COVID vaccination on 82nd birthday

Community vaccination services went live in Walsall on 17 December with the borough’s first vaccines being delivered by a local GP practice in Darlaston.

Among the first to be vaccinated at Darlaston Health Centre was 82-year-old Jean Rowley, who was pleasantly surprised to be called in on her birthday.

She said: “It’s one of the nicest birthday presents I’ve had. This year has been heart-breaking: I’ve only been out about four times and had to sit in the car and be taken around. It’s nice to think you can have an injection that perhaps can help, but I’ll definitely keep following all the rules in the meantime.”

The first vaccination recipient on the day was 85-year-old Joan, who commented: “I think the NHS is wonderful, everyone here couldn’t be more pleasant and helpful. This is just like the flu injection: if it’s for our convenience I don’t see why we shouldn’t have it.”

Married couple Dorothy and Sam Gilbert were next to be vaccinated, saying that they were “overjoyed” to receive the call from their GP.

Sam added: “We’ve virtually been prisoners since April, but this means there’s some hope for next year. I think everyone who’s offered the jab should go for it!”

Vaccination services that are primary care based are led by GPs, who will offer the vaccine to patients within their wider Primary Care Network (PCN) group from one nominated practice site.

Darlaston Health Centre is the nominated site for the Walsall West 1 PCN, with other areas set to go live in the coming days.

Preparing a vaccination service is a team effort involving the GPs and nurses who administer the vaccines, the practice staff who organise and run the sessions, and local pharmacists who supervise preparation of the delicate vaccines.

Dr Ravi Sandhu, GP Partner at Modality Kingfisher-Berkeley Practice and Clinical Director for Walsall West One PCN, said: “I’m really proud of everyone involved and the way that they’ve worked closely together, not only to enable us to be the first site in Walsall to vaccinate vulnerable patients, but also to keep our normal services running.

“Now that we have a safe and effective vaccine, we’ll be prioritising giving it to our most vulnerable patients and doing it as soon as we’re able to, so that we can beat this virus and all look forward to a more positive 2021.”

Patients aged 80 and above who are mobile will be the first to receive the jab at one of the PCN sites as the rollout continues across the Black Country and West Birmingham. The order in which people receive the vaccine is set nationally by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Dr Anand Rischie, local GP and chair of Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group, added: “It’s great news that the first vaccination services led by Primary Care Networks are now live and we’re working hard to ensure that we can vaccinate those with most need as outlined by the JCVI.

“I would like to remind people that they should not contact or visit their GP practice for a vaccine. We will contact people to arrange an appointment when it’s their turn.

“Vaccination is only one step in the fight against Coronavirus though, so we all still need to remain vigilant and follow the local COVID alert level restrictions.”

The NHS will continue to stand up more vaccination services over the coming weeks to ensure all communities have access to the vaccine. Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients will subsequently stand up when further supplies of the vaccine become available, and these sites will be confirmed in due course.

In the meantime, people are urged to continue to do everything they can to stop the spread of the virus. This means continuing to follow the Hands, Face, Space guidance and adhering to the local restrictions which are currently in place.