The first batch of Covid-19 vaccine has arrived in the Isle of Man, and a complex logistical exercise is underway to prepare for the first Island residents to be vaccinated.
The Isle of Man receives vaccine on a per-capita basis through the NHS supply chain, in line with the delivery schedule supplied by the United Kingdom. Delivery of the first proven effective and safe vaccine in the early hours of 16 December heralds the start of the biggest mass vaccination programme ever undertaken in the Island.
The vaccine was transported by courier to the Island and has been safely transferred to a specialist medical freezer where it will be stored at a temperature of minus 70 degrees ahead of roll-out.
Approval of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine by the UK medicines regulator last month has been widely greeted as a turning point in the pandemic, with the potential to reduce infections, demand for acute hospital care and therefore deaths.
A project team led by the department’s Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Magson is spearheading detailed plans for the vaccination roll-out in the Island, ensuring that at every stage of the process, from arranging safe shipment and storage to administration of the vaccine, a solution that works for the Isle of Man is in place.
The first phase of the vaccination will be health and care staff, care home residents and workers, alongside the over 80s; the planned timeline for roll-out is on track, with final preparations being completed this week in relation to the training and coordination of vaccinator teams and also receipt of final documentation from the UK government. Priority groups are set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations, an independent expert advisory body to the UK Government.
In the first phase, expected to last eight weeks, vaccinators will visit care homes to give residents their jabs, while health and care staff will be vaccinated in their workplace, or be invited to attend Noble’s or Ramsey Cottage Hospital for their jab.
Later on in the programme, Island residents will be invited to a vaccination hub, as priority groups are called. An area at Isle of Man Airport is being developed to serve as this hub and work to provide all necessary facilities for staff and patients is now underway.
Roll-out of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine requires detailed logistical planning, as strict controls dictate the correct storage, handling, transportation and administering of the drug. In addition, patients need to be given a second dose of the vaccine 28 days after the first, requiring a specialist call and recall admin and records system.
Minister for Health and Social Care David Ashford said:
‘The arrival of the first Covid vaccine in the Island is a landmark moment in our efforts to protect the population from the virus, but there are critical steps to take before we can start vaccinating people, and a large team of dedicated staff stands behind our front-line vaccinators making these final preparations.
‘Planning a mass vaccination programme is a huge challenge demanding a wide range of skills. Once again our staff are showing great commitment and professionalism to get the job done, scoping out each stage in fine detail, dealing with issues as they arise and finding solutions to problems. We are driven by a collective aim to ensure our people receive the best possible service, and that the approach is suitable for the residents of the Isle of Man.’
The Government’s Covid Vaccination Programme Board follows approved protocols from clinical and professional bodies in the UK, and senior officers here have direct lines of contact with counterparts in the UK Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England.
The programme team includes senior clinicians from Public Health, hospitals, the community and pharmacy alongside professionals in the areas of project management, systems design, IT, staff training, governance and communications.