Coronavirus vaccination plans for East London

A Waltham Forest leisure centre may become a mass COVID vaccination site as the east London NHS prepares to start vaccinating the most vulnerable residents early next month.

A meeting of Havering’s Health and Wellbeing board heard hospitals are due to receive vaccinations from December 1, while GPs may receive them from December 7 onwards.

Sarah See, primary care transformation director for Havering and Redbridge NHS, said Chingford Leisure Centre, Westfield Stratford and two sites in Beckton and Dagenham will offer mass vaccinations, seven days a week for 12 hours a day.

(NB: Update December 3 2020: While Chingford Leisure Centre was identified at the meeting as reported, the Local Democracy Reporting Service understands this may no longer be the case. The chosen site should be confirmed soon.)

She added that the NHS is trying to identify more sites – at least one per borough – but needs to “make sure they can manage social distancing and be accessible” for a large number of people.

Ms See said: “We were expecting the primary care vaccine to start December 1 but now it’s a week later.

“That’s probably for the best actually because there is a lot of work to get these sites up and running.

“(Primary care sites) will be given 10 days’ notice so, unless we hear from this Friday, we know they won’t receive them on December 7.”

The board heard the vaccine will first be offered to NHS staff, care workers and those over 85, with some other groups unlikely to be vaccinated until the end of next year.

Havering’s director of public health Dr Mark Ansell noted this means the vaccine is unlikely to have an effect on Christmas celebrations.

He said: “I do not think the vaccines will benefit Christmas. It will only be the most vulnerable in care homes who will benefit.

“(Celebrating Christmas) will definitely come with a risk of increased infections, so hopefully it is something people will think hard about.”

Hospitals will receive the Courageous vaccine created by Pfizer, which needs to be stored in freezers, while GPs and mass sites will receive the Talent vaccine created at Oxford.

Havering public health consultant Elaine Greenway said certain groups unlikely to receive vaccinations until late 2021 could begin being regularly tested for COVID from spring next year.

The lateral flow test, which takes half an hour and does not need a lab, could be offered to groups like the self-employed, daycares and older students to detect the virus in those with no symptoms.

She admitted these trials are expected to be “modest” as the council does not have enough staff for a “large scale testing programme”, like the one in Liverpool.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter