Twenty-three residents and 16 staff members at Chateau des Tielles received their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, administered by Island Health nurses Sister Debbie Duquemin and Judie Ellis.
Senior nurse at the home Anna Gerhardt was pleased the island’s most vulnerable residents could receive the injections with no concerns about community seeding, social distancing or other restrictions.
‘It’s important that everybody gets protected from this infection and this is a huge step towards us getting back to normal, seeing family and friends out of the island and travelling again,’ she said.
‘We are essentially Covid-free here, living in our own island bubble, but you just need to look elsewhere to see how fortunate we are to be out of lockdown and living a relatively normal life.’
For nurse Gerhardt it means she can see light at the end of the tunnel to visit her parents again, something which she has longed to do for some time now.
Sister Duquemin explained the intricate time-tabling that was required to roll out the vaccine, ensuring minimal wastage, transportation and maximum efficiency.
‘Organisation is key,’ she said.
‘It all comes down to preparation and co-ordination, having staff on board to get things ready for us.
‘Really it’s the injection that is the quick and easy bit.’
Vaccination numbers are critical as the Pfizer/BioNTech jab cannot be transported much and needs to be stored at -70C. Sister Duquemin anticipated that administering the Oxford/AstraZeneca product – when that arrives – would simplify things because it does not require storage at ultra-low temperatures, making transportation easier.
First to receive the vaccine yesterday was 76-year-old Jennie Jouhning, who has been in the home only since New Year’s Eve after five-and-a-half months in hospital. Feeling fine before and after the jab, she said: ‘This is a big step. We have done so well up until now so we’ve got to carry that on.
‘It’s been said 1,000 times but [Director of Public Health] Dr Nicola Brink and the whole health care team have been fantastic, a gift from heaven.’
Chateau des Tielles operated strict visitor restrictions until lockdown was enforced and has since not returned to normal, despite very low levels of Covid-19 in the island and no current evidence of community seeding.
Manager Peter Adam said that while the in-house rules were strict, it was worth it to be able to get to this point.
‘We had to lockdown completely twice, and since the beginning we’ve had a registration book for anyone coming in and out to help with contact tracing should we need it. We’ve taken temperature tests on arrival, we limited visitors to two per room at a time and have not had any social gatherings since the start of the pandemic.’
Some residents in the home have full capacity, while others are being cared for as they live with dementia or underlying health conditions.
‘With an average age of 87 and our oldest resident being 100, these are some of the most vulnerable people in the island so it is so important we look to protect them as a priority.
‘We purchased £10,000 of PPE last January but thankfully never needed to use it because we never let the virus come through these doors.’
During the height of the pandemic in Guernsey, the 26 full-time staff members went to work, went straight home and had groceries and supplies delivered to them so they did not have to go into the community.
‘It was a belt and braces approach, but we had to do what we had to do,’ Mr Adam said.
‘Now we need to stay vigilant for the first and second doses and a couple of weeks after that, then hopefully we can begin to see things go back to normal.’