On Wednesday 17 February, staff at Georgetown Hospital began administering the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to people in Ascension. 1,950 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were delivered to Ascension on Tuesday 16 February via an RAF operational support flight. These were supplied by the UK government who last year generously committed to providing the Overseas Territories with doses of vaccines as they became available.
The first people to receive the vaccine were Georgetown Hospital employee Sylvia Isaac and her husband Mervyn. On receiving her first dose of vaccine Sylvia said:
“I feel very privileged to be able to receive this vaccine and am thankful to the UK government for making it available to us. The vaccination itself was quick and painless. This vaccine will hopefully protect us against the worst effects of COVID-19, and also help to protect family, friends and the rest of the community.”
The territory-wide vaccination campaign is taking place in two main stages.
The first stage of vaccinations is already complete. This saw frontline medical staff and emergency service workers, and dependents of these individuals, receive their first dose of vaccine.
Following this, the vaccine is now being offered to the wider public. Due to the relatively small size of Ascension’s population it is expected that within the next two weeks everyone eligible to receive the vaccine will have been offered an appointment.
In order to develop the highest level of immune response to the vaccine two doses will be required. Discussions with experts from Public Health England (PHE) about the most effective dosing regimen for the AstraZeneca vaccine remain ongoing. In order to determine what spacing between doses provides the maximum immune response PHE are analysing evidence from clinical trials and from the ongoing vaccination campaign in the UK. Although the final regimen will be informed by expert advice from PHE, members of the public can expect to receive the second dose between three and 12 weeks after the first.
At present the vaccine is not recommended for those aged less than 18 years old, and although further work is ongoing to assess the effectiveness of vaccines on this group, at this time they will not be offered the vaccine.
Although the AstraZeneca vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus, it cannot cause illness, and is able to be stored at fridge temperature making it easier to distribute than some other COVID-19 vaccines.
So far over 16 million people in the UK have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, which includes both the AstraZeneca vaccine and the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
If members of the public would like any information on the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, or would like to discuss vaccination with a member of hospital staff, they can contact Georgetown Hospital by telephone on 66252 by email through firstname.lastname@example.org.