More COVID-19 vaccination centres open as testing programme announced
MORE surgeries have started vaccinating patients against COVID-19.
Details of the latest hubs providing inoculations to people in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire area have now been revealed, as more calls are made to people on the priority list to have a jab.
It comes as South Gloucestershire Council and Bristol become the latest areas which will be added to the government's targeted community testing programme, to identify people who have the coronavirus but experience no symptoms, in the new year.
Among the surgeries to start vaccinations using the Pfizer/BioNTech jab are:
*West Walk Surgery in Yate, also for patients of Courtside, Frome Valley, Kennedy Way and Wellington Road surgeries.
*Christchurch Medical Centre in Downend, for patients of the Downend Health Group, Emersons Green Medical Centre, Leap Valley, Orchard and Three Shires GP practices.
*East Trees Health Centre in Eastville, also for patients of Broadmead, Charlotte Keel, Maytrees, Lawrence Hill, Montpelier and Wellspring surgeries and health centres.
Among those to receive a jab today was Mangotsfield resident and Kingswood Community transport volunteer Ray Isaac, pictured above, who had his at the Christchurch Medical Centre in Downend.
The Healthier Together partnership of ten local health and care organisations, which is organising vaccinations in the region, again called on people not to contact their GP practice to ask when they will be given the vaccine but instead to wait to be contacted.
The group said: "Staff are working tirelessly to ensure the necessary measures are in place for those most at risk to get their vaccine first.
"We ask for your patience and understanding; we are doing everything we can to stick to our timelines however we may need to cancel or amend appointments depending on delivery of the vaccine.
"Please be assured that no one will be left behind – this is the start of the vaccination programme and there will be enough for everyone."
South Gloucestershire and Bristol were among 10 council areas added to the 106 already carrying out "enhanced community testing programmes" using so-called lateral flow device tests, which produce a faster result.
The government says carrying out the lateral flow tests, which are available to everyone and not just those with coronavirus symptoms, will help to "break the chain of transmission and keep the virus under control"
Results from the tests can be returned within 30 minutes – but they have been criticised for being less reliable, with the British Medical Journal reporting that the lateral flow test detected less than half the COVID-19 cases picked up by the slower polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test used for people who are reporting virus symptoms.
Welcoming the extension of the testing programme, South Gloucestershire Council deputy leader Ben Stokes said: "We know that up to one in three can actually have covid, but do not show any symptoms, which is why Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) is a useful tool for us to help understand where the disease is in the community and where it may be being carried and potentially spread without people knowing they are at additional risk.
"This new programme, which was open to Tier 3 areas to apply for, will run from around the middle of January for a period of six weeks; it will seek to identify those that are unknowingly carrying the virus and would not otherwise have been identified.
"The new programme is likely to be deployed into specific areas of South Gloucestershire where incidence levels are highest.
"When we can identify cases, we can step in to support individuals to self-isolate, which helps to break the chain of transmission.
"In addition to this, we have already begun our first community testing pilot, for staff and students at SGS College in Stoke Gifford, as part of our wider LFT work.
"Lessons learned from the pilot will be used to help schools plan for the potential wider schools testing programme, announced last week by the DfE to optionally come into effect in the new year."