More people in Sheffield now vaccinated against Covid-19 than have tested positive for killer virus
More people have now been vaccinated against coronavirus in Sheffield than have tested positive for the deadly disease in the city since the pandemic began, new figures from the NHS suggest.
Since it arrived in the city early last year, 34,146 people in Sheffield have tested positive for Covid-19, with 815 sadly dying from the killer virus in the city in 2020 and thousands more becoming seriously ill.
However, Government figures now suggest that more than 40,000 people in the city have been vaccinated against coronavirus since the rollout began in December, equivalent to around seven per cent of the overall population.
While the milestone doesn’t mean that people in Sheffield are less likely to catch or transmit the deadly virus, it does mean that more people in the city are protected against its worst effects and as such is a powerful indication that the long battle against Covid-19 is beginning to be won.
Following the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine just three weeks ago, and the earlier approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccination programme across Sheffield has already vaccinated thousands of vulnerable residents and front line workers.
More than 15 primary care network sites are now up and running in the city, while care home staff and residents have begun to be vaccinated and thousands of NHS and social care staff are being vaccinated as a priority. A large NHS vaccination centre at Sheffield Arena is also due to open before the end of this month to provide even more vaccinations.
Up to this week prioritisation had only been given to the over 80s and patient-facing NHS and social care staff. However, because there has been such good progress, people aged 75 to 79 and then 70 to 74 will also begin to be vaccinated in priority order. Early indications are that, subject to vaccine supplies, the region is on target to have vaccinated these top four priority groups - estimated to be over 280,000 people - by mid-February.
Kirsten Major, chief executive of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said the response from NHS colleagues across the city to get vaccinations underway as quickly as possible had been ‘staggering’.
She said: “Everyone involved in the process from the staff managing the logistics, administrative colleagues making appointments, vaccinators giving the jabs and of course wonderful volunteers helping ensure people are put at ease and know what to do have been and continue to be simply amazing in rising to this unprecedented challenge.
“We are of course dependent on vaccine supplies, but be assured that when the vaccine comes in, people are mobilising quickly to make appointments and get vaccinations done. We are still in the early days of the vaccination programme and there are some occasions when we need to change appointments for one reason or another, but we would ask people to bear with us and be understanding that staff are doing their very best.”
Ms Major said that while hospitals were currently focussing on vaccinating NHS and social care staff, the vast majority of the rollout was being undertaken by primary care staff in GP surgeries.
And she added that while some vaccination sites may be further forward than others if they started their rollout at different times, everyone who is eligible should ‘rest assured’ they will receive a vaccination as quickly as possible.
“We do still need to work through the groups in priority order and so if you have not been called yet it maybe because there are still people to be vaccinated in the higher age groups in your vaccination area,” she said.
“What we can say is that the response from NHS colleagues across the city to get vaccinations underway as quickly as possible has been staggering. We just need people to bear with us as we rollout this huge programme.”
Initially, patients were meant to get their second vaccine dose within weeks of the first, but new guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises that it can now be administered up to 12 weeks after the first jab.
Based on advice from the JCVI, the four UK Chief Medical Officers determined that prioritising first doses for as many people as possible on the priority list would protect the greatest number of at risk people in the shortest possible time.
NHS bosses in Sheffield say everyone who has had their first vaccination will get their second dose within the required window.
While patients and care home residents are being vaccinated by GP surgeries in the city, more than 14,000 NHS staff have also been vaccinated across the region.
And soon, a new large-scale vaccination site will open at Sheffield Arena in Attercliffe, creating additional capacity for community vaccination to that which is being delivered by family doctors.
Plans for the site are in the final stages and it is expected vaccinations will begin there by the end of January, seven days a week.
People in the priority groups of age 75 and above who live 30 to 45 minutes drive from the Arena will receive an invitation letter from the NHS national booking service which will explain how they can book an appointment slot – over the phone or online through the national booking service.
However, the Arena is just one option and people can wait until they receive an invitation from their local GP practice if this is likely to be closer to where they live and more convenient.