A PHARMACY in County Durham has become one of the first in the country to administer Covid-19 vaccinations.

Knights, on Escomb Road, in Bishop Auckland, started vaccinating people from the priority groups today (Saturday, January 23).

Margaret Ramage, an 84-year-old Spennymoor cleaner, was one of 250 people to get the jab and Knights expects to do about 350 a day in future.

Superintendent Pharmacist Peter Horrocks said: “Today has been one of the most rewarding days of my career so far.

"The patients attending the clinic have been so appreciative and grateful.

“Many of these haven’t been out their homes for months, it has been such a pleasure welcoming them and providing a glimmer of hope for the future.”

The Northern Echo:

Staff took delivery of 1,200 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday and expect to administer them all over a five-day period.

Mr Horrocks said: “When the delivery arrived and was taken off the van I said to a colleague ‘this is a little bit of history’.

“We feel so privileged to be taking part and are really delighted to be able to offer this service to the local community.

“It has been a stressful year, and even getting set up for these clinics took a bit of planning and time, but we routinely do flu vaccines for 20,000 people between October and December and have consultation and clinic rooms set up so it can run separately to the pharmacy.

The Northern Echo:

“We have a team of about 15 vaccinators across various shifts.

“I should find out how many more vaccines we will receive next week, so we can add more appointments to the National Booking System for those who are eligible.

“But it is key that people know they are not to try to book an appointment until they get a letter of call from their GP, not to turn up too early as it an appointment-based system to avoid congestion and people shouldn’t need to phone the doctor of pharmacy which would detract staff from their important role.”

The Northern Echo:

The vaccines are distributed by NHS England and, once Knights knows how many vaccine doses it will receive per delivery, appointments are made available through the National Booking System, for those people who have been invited by the NHS to book one.

Time slots for the first batch of vaccinations were released for eligible patients on Friday night and had all been taken by Tuesday afternoon, but further doses and appointments are expected within days.

The Northern Echo:

Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison volunteered as a marshal on day one of the clinic.

She said: “It was brilliant, a really positive experience.

“It was fantastic seeing people coming to Bishop Auckland for their vaccination, as some had been concerned about making the journey to the Centre for Life in Newcastle, particularly when the weather has been poor.

“To have this closer to home for many mean it is easier and much more familiar. The virus has provoked so many unknowns so any sort of familiarity is important.

“It was incredible hearing people talk about how positive they were feeling and excited, not to be having an injection, but about the vaccine and the protection is offers to them, seeing it as alifeline and a way to help live lives a little more normally.

“One lady I spoke to hadn’t been out the house in last March, which was humbling and shows how crucial this.

“I also have to say how well it went to reassure people that in the two-and-a-half hours I was there I don’t think anyone waited more than ten minutes and nobody was outside for more than five.”

For information and to book appointments visit nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/