As the programme ramps up with over-80s now being invited to book appointments and the first batch of the Oxford vaccine having now arrived in the Island, Dr Ivan Muscat has urged Islanders to help prevent case numbers spiralling.
‘Islanders should not be thinking it is the time to deviate from our public health guidance simply because our most vulnerable are now being vaccinated.
‘The impact of the Covid-19 vaccines will not be felt in the wider community for some months,’ he said.
Dr Muscat also reminded Islanders that there was still uncertainty over whether people who had received the jab could still pass on the virus.
‘What we do know is that the vaccine protects against disease due to Covid including severe disease. It has yet to be established whether the vaccine prevents carriage and transmission of the virus.’
Guernsey this week confirmed the presence of the new super-contagious variant of Covid-19 in a family which is now isolating, and Dr Muscat said it was likely that the strain was also circulating within Jersey.
‘We can be fairly certain that we have the presence of Covid variants in the Island, and while this remains to be proven, we need to all act cautiously around each other and at our borders to prevent the entry of further variants.
‘We must not be mixing in each other’s households or meeting up outside for walks without physical distancing.
‘For the foreseeable future Covid will continue to spread and it will continue to have an impact on our normal life and we must minimise this by adhering to public health policy.’
Meanwhile, the Primary Care Body has said that Jersey’s GPs and pharmacists remain on stand-by to help deliver the vaccine if required – despite having had a tender to run the programme themselves rejected by the government.
It has emerged that the government chose to go with its own model, using Fort Regent as a mass-vaccination centre rather than use doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies to deliver the injections in the community.
The use of the single centre as a clinical environment to deliver the vaccine has been described by operational lead Ross Barnes as a positive element of the programme, which is allowing staff to maximise the amount of vaccine they do have and reduce waste.
Mr Barnes has also urged Islanders not to panic or attempt to jump the queue, saying that there will be enough vaccine to go around.
‘We do have a system in place. It is clinically guided by giving protection to the most at risk in the population. And there will be enough vaccine for everyone – we will get to everyone as quickly as we possibly can,’ he said.
The PCB says that its members remain willing and able to help deliver the programme should they be required, describing it as the ‘single most important intervention to protect the Island at this pivotal stage in the pandemic’.
Dr James Mair, on behalf of the PCB, said: ‘The PCB made an expression of interest on behalf of all Island GPs and pharmacists to deliver a Covid vaccination programme. We proposed to use our clinical teams, administration expertise, estates, IT and, most importantly, knowledge of our patients to get the vaccinations done.
‘This would have been administered in our surgeries or patients’ homes/care settings in the evenings and weekends so that our routine workload could continue during the day. This proposal was considered but not pursued by government.
‘There was a request made instead for GPs to work during the week to support the Fort delivery and I believe some have been able to do this.’
Dr Mair added: ‘GPs and pharmacists remain available to vaccinate our patients if asked, as it is arguably the single most important intervention to protect the Island at this pivotal stage in the pandemic.’
The proposal from GPs and pharmacists to deliver the vaccination programme was one of two responses received by the government to a request for tenders.