Keyworkers caring for some of County Durham’s most vulnerable residents have begun to receive their Covid-19 vaccines at a new dedicated centre.
This week, a vaccination centre opened at County Hall in Durham City to vaccinate frontline social care workers, including those employed by Durham County Council, the NHS and the independent sector.
The centre will operate seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm, to ensure those working with elderly people and children and adults with complex needs are offered vaccines as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is anticipated up to 10,000 social care workers will be vaccinated at the centre over the next five weeks.
Meagan Hodgson, a home care worker at Maple Court Extra Care facility in Consett, and Tim Carter, operations supervisor at Chester View Extra Care facility in Ouston, near Chester-le-Street, were among the first to receive their initial dose of the vaccine.
Meagan has worked at Maple Court for three years and is one of a team of care workers providing domiciliary care to the facility’s elderly tenants. This ranges from personal care and assisting with medication, to wellbeing checks. The latter has proven particularly important during the pandemic when the residents have been unable to see their families and friends.
Meagan said: “It’s been a very stressful year as although we are incredibly careful and have robust processes in place, every time I come into work I have been worried I might inadvertently pass on the virus to the tenants. When we heard the first vaccine had been approved, we felt so relieved and it was the same when I was invited to make my appointment this week. It’s just such a huge relief, not for myself but for the protection of the vulnerable people I care for.”
Tim has been leading a team of care workers at Chester View since September and has worked in adult social care for the council for 25 years.
“It’s been an incredibly tough time, but the vaccine means there is finally light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“It’s our way of fighting back against the virus. The team here have been working incredibly hard to keep our tenants safe and well, and now that we are getting the vaccine, it offers that extra level of protection.”
Along with other local authorities across the country, Durham County Council was asked to identify frontline social care workers to be vaccinated as part of the NHS’s national vaccination programme.
These employees have been prioritised in terms of the nature of their role and the vulnerability of the people they are caring for and the lists have been shared with the NHS. This week, the NHS began to contact staff to offer appointments, with the first taking place at County Hall on Tuesday.
All other council staff will be vaccinated in line with the NHS guidance. Members of the public are asked not to contact the council to request an appointment, as the centre is only providing the vaccine to frontline social care staff who will be contacted by the NHS directly.
Cllr Lucy Hovvels, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for adults and health services, said: “Our social care workers support some of the county’s most vulnerable people and so we are delighted to be assisting the NHS to ensure they receive their Covid-19 vaccines as quickly as possible.
“I know how much this means to dedicated keyworkers such as Tim and Meagan, who have continued to provide the personal care their tenants need throughout the pandemic. These vaccinations are about protecting the people they care for; people who are more likely to become seriously ill if they catch coronavirus.
“The vaccination programme is a sign of great progress, but it is important those who have had their first dose continue to follow the rules, as they are not yet fully protected and could still pass on the virus. This includes social distancing and wearing a face-covering in places where it is hard to stay away from other people.”
Cllr Hovvels added: “I would like to thank all of our keyworkers for their dedication during this difficult time, the scientists who have developed the vaccines and those working so hard to deliver the vaccination programme that will save hundreds of thousands of lives.”
For morning information about the national vaccination programme, visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/