How will vaccine plan be rolled out and who gets their jab first?

A COVID-19 vaccination programme for Islanders will start before the end of the year if the jabs get approval from regulators, the government has confirmed.

  Picture: DAVID FERGUSON.Fort Regent. (29709748)
Picture: DAVID FERGUSON.Fort Regent. (29709748)

Fort Regent will become a mass vaccination centre, and a mobile unit will be used for care homes, as soon as the rollout is given the go-ahead.

Details about the vaccination programme, described as ‘a complete game-changer’ by deputy medical officer of health Dr Ivan Muscat, were shared at a briefing yesterday.

Supplies of both the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine and the Astra Zeneca jab developed at the University of Oxford are expected to be released to the Island via UK supply channels, with no charge from the UK to Jersey or the other Crown Dependencies.

Although the Fort Regent facility, chosen because of its scale and the availability of a large adjacent car park, will be able to cope with 1,000 Islanders daily, seven days per week, supplies of the vaccine are likely to be limited at first.

The Island’s initial allocation will be prioritised for care-home residents, with the mobile unit ready to be deployed from late December, alongside vaccinations for care -ome staff and those employed as domestic carers.

The second-highest priority group will comprise the over-80s and all health staff, followed by subsequent tiers classified through their vulnerability or age bracket.

Vaccines will be in two doses, administered either three or four weeks apart.

A team of health professionals, including GPs, nurses, paramedics and dentists, will staff the facility at the Queen’s Hall at Fort Regent.

Dr Muscat said vaccines were the most effective way of preventing infectious diseases and that the Covid-19 vaccines that would be arriving in Jersey had been rigorously tested for both safety and effectiveness.

‘After clean water, vaccination is the most effective public health intervention in the world,’ he said. ‘We stand a much better chance of returning to some normality by Easter if Islanders continue to take care throughout the winter, adhere to public health guidance, and get the vaccine when it is offered.’

Chief Minister John Le Fondré welcomed the news, which he called ‘a significant milestone in our Covid winter strategy’.

‘This is the biggest breakthrough since the pandemic began,’ he said. ‘But it is not a panacea – we are still seeing clusters of cases and an increase in infections.

Senator Le Fondré said it was essential to remain vigilant and responsible in order to maximise the chances of avoiding a lockdown in the run-up to Christmas.

‘If people don’t act responsibly, then the risk becomes an awful lot higher and these winter months become a lot longer and harder,’ he said.

Health Minister Richard Renouf said: ‘We have been working closely with the UK Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England for the delivery of a safe vaccine when it becomes available.

‘We will only be using the vaccine after it has passed the clinical trials and is ready to be deployed. We will prioritise the at-risk Islanders and – although it won’t be compulsory – would strongly encourage as many people as possible to be vaccinated, as this is how we can start returning to normal life.’

Islanders keen to know what restrictions may be in place at Christmas will have to wait a little longer, Deputy Renouf said.

‘I am shortly going to be briefed regarding Christmas and what relaxations – if any – may be possible,’ he explained, adding that a further announcement would be made in the near future.

The government plans to monitor and counter unfounded ‘anti-vax’ claims, particularly on social media.

‘Follow the information, not the misinformation,’ Dr Muscat urged Islanders.

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