University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) has become one of the first trusts across the country to start vaccinating using the new Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.
Hilary Birch became the first person to receive the vaccine at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI). Hilary, a Patient Flow Controller from the RLI, former Matron and mum to four children, has been working for the NHS for the last 34 years and she was the first to receive the Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at UHMBT.
Hilary, 58, who was born in Barrow, lives in Kendal and has worked at the RLI since 1993, said: “It’s brilliant news that the Oxford vaccine is now being given out. It’s going to make such a difference to everyone. I can’t believe I’m the first one at our Trust to have had it – I'm very fortunate!”
Hilary is hopeful that the vaccination programme will eventually make life better for patients, colleagues, family, friends and the NHS.
She said: “If it enables us to keep our workforce in work that will be a huge benefit. It has been hard for everyone when people have had to isolate or shield from the virus.
“If we can get as many people vaccinated as possible and things return to normal, we’ll be able to have a cuddle with friends and family. If we’ve had a hard day at work, we would usually have a hug and say it’s going to be ok but we haven’t been able to do that over the last year. It will also be great when we no longer need to wear masks and can show our empathy more clearly.”
Throughout the pandemic Hilary’s job has been to ensure a smooth flow of patients through the hospital so that there hasn’t been a backlog or pressure on the Emergency Department (ED) at the RLI.
Hilary said: “I love my job. You come in to work every day and it’s a challenge to work through everything. By the end of the day, you have pulled most of the pieces together. It’s very satisfying. We have an excellent team; they all pull together and back each other up.”
Hilary has one big wish for the future: “I hope the vaccination programme will eventually bring some normality back to people’s lives.”
The NHS is the first health service in the world to deliver the new life-saving jab in the next stage of the phased vaccine programme.
Hundreds of new vaccination sites are due to come on-stream this week, joining the 700 which are already in operation.
The first Oxford AstraZeneca vaccinations will be delivered at a small number of hospitals (including the RLI) for the first few days for surveillance purposes, as is standard practice, before the bulk of supplies are sent to hundreds of GP-led services later in the week.
Aaron Cummins, Chief Executive, UHMBT, said: “We are over the moon to be selected as one of the first trusts to deliver the new Oxford AstraZeneca vaccination. This is part of the biggest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS and we are very proud to be playing our part.
“To think that we now have two approved vaccines against a virus that we had never seen before early last year is just astounding and this is testament to the incredibly hard work of all the scientists, research teams and the staggering number of people who chose to be part of research studies. All of this determination to come together means that we now understand the virus better than ever and are in a much stronger position to fight it.
“Our teams will continue to work alongside our Bay Health and Care Partners and colleagues in primary care to vaccinate as many people as possible and help protect them against COVID-19. There has been a fantastic team effort throughout the pandemic and this is continuing with our vaccination programme. I’d like to thank everyone involved and urge anyone who is invited to have the vaccine to do so; it really will help us save lives.”
The vaccine is easier to transport and store than the Pfizer jab, which has to be kept at minus 70 degrees until shortly before it is used, making it easier to deliver. In line with national guidance, the vaccine will be offered at the RLI to UHMBT colleagues who are at higher risk from COVID-19.
Those eligible to receive the vaccine will receive an invitation to book their appointment. For most people this will be a letter, either from their GP or the NHS. This letter will include all the information people will need to book appointments, including their NHS number. Residents are asked not to contact the NHS to get an appointment until they have received this letter.
Information on the COVID-19 vaccines is available on the NHS.UK website.