40,000 islanders could be vaccinated by mid-2021

ALL islanders over 50 could be vaccinated by mid-May, as Guernsey’s health officials gear up for the biggest mass vaccination in the Bailiwick’s history.

Health & Social Care president Al Brouard, left, and CCA chairman Peter Ferbrache at yesterday’s Covid briefing. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28959339)
Health & Social Care president Al Brouard, left, and CCA chairman Peter Ferbrache at yesterday’s Covid briefing. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28959339)

It is estimated that up to 40,000 people will be vaccinated by mid 2021, with priority being given to older islanders and vulnerable people. To cope with demand, Sir John Loveridge Hall at Beau Sejour will be converted into a community vaccination centre in the coming weeks, to prepare for the arrival of vaccines.

The jabs will be voluntary, CCA chair Peter Ferbrache said in a press conference yesterday, but there were warnings that those who had not been vaccinated might face travel restrictions.

Deputy Ferbrache said there were no plans to relax the travel restrictions at that stage and it could take some time for self-isolation to be removed, as this would depend on what was happening in jurisdictions around the Bailiwick, as well as what islanders were doing.

‘The world still faces a very considerable challenge,’ he said.

Deputy Chief Minister Heidi Soulsby warned that vaccinations might be needed for free travel.

‘It may well be that those that can prove they have been vaccinated are able to travel without restrictions in the future,’ she said.

‘However, we won’t be able to go back to how things were before Covid-19 made an appearance, at least not until we see the effectiveness of the vaccine across populations and are satisfied that unrestricted travel will not have a serious impact in our islands.’

It is estimated that about 70% of the population will need to be vaccinated for it to be effective, but more research is needed about the vaccine’s ability to stop the spread of the virus.

The Beau Sejour sports hall will be needed until at least mid-May next year and it is hoped that all islanders in the first nine priority groups – which is all islanders over 50, those working in health professions and those in at-risk groups – will be vaccinated by then.

States chief executive Paul Whitfield said Beau Sejour was the right site for the job, with good parking and access. ‘The Sir John Loveridge sports hall will be repurposed to provide a clinical setting,’ he said.

‘Medical staff will have to be specifically trained and a comprehensive vaccine administration service will manage and co-ordinate the roll-out of the vaccination programme for all our population.’

Dr Brink said it was very encouraging that there were just three cases in the island currently and there had not been any new cases diagnosed in the last 24 hours.

She was keen to emphasis that the vaccine programme would be voluntary.

‘It will not be a compulsory vaccination programme,’ she said.

‘Vaccines save lives. This is the most significant breakthrough that we’ve had since the start of the pandemic. So it’s really encouraging for us.’

Health & Social Care president Al Brouard said the island would be receiving its allocation of vaccines through the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and it was not yet clear which vaccines the island would get.

‘The [HSC] committee met with Policy & Resources earlier this week and it has been agreed that the vaccine programme will be provided to islanders free of charge,’ he said. ‘Initially, the vaccine will be administered by our occupational health teams and primary health colleagues.’

He said that the more people needing vaccinations, the more vaccinators would be required.

But timescales were not clear.

‘It is really important the community understands that whilst we might be ready, we will receive the vaccine in accordance with timetables that are outside of our control and set by our UK colleagues,’ he said.

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