Residents of a care home for older people in Cheltenham have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in the battle against COVID-19.

Faithfull House was one of a small number of care homes to be selected by NHS England and NHS Improvement as part of a trial to ensure the vaccine could be safely effectively transported to staff and residents, so they don’t have to travel to be vaccinated.

Thanks to the success of this pilot, from this week the vaccine is now being rolled out to other care homes across the country.

Dr Cameron Jackson, GP at St Paul’s Medical Centre in Cheltenham, said:

“Groups of GP practices are already working closely together with community services to offer the vaccination to local people, initially people over 80 and then expanding in the coming months to include other priority groups.

Being given an opportunity to offer the vaccination to our local care home residents and staff is a really important step and I am delighted that we have been able to start doing this.”

Martin Hughes, Chief Executive of Lilian Faithfull Care, the charity which runs Faithfull House, said:

“This is a significant step in protecting our residents. Lilian Faithfull Care have done so well in keeping people safe during this pandemic, and we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.

We are proud of our close links with the surgery and our residents are hugely excited and feel very privileged to be taking part in a monumental step forward for care homes.”

Sarah Scott, Gloucestershire’s Director of Public Health said:

“We have worked really hard with care homes for many months now, doing all we can to reduce the opportunity for the virus to get in and spread between residents and staff.

As the vaccination programme in care homes is rolled out, we hope it will enable visiting restrictions to be eased as there is no doubt that visits from friends and relatives are important to the mental health and wellbeing of residents.

However, important and as welcomed as this is, it does not mean we can let our guards down for a minute, and I urge everyone to continue to follow public advice to keep suppressing the virus to as low a level as possible.”

Helen Goodey, Director of Primary Care at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group said:

“Protecting our care home residents against COVID-19 is vitally important, and to have been one of only a small number across England to trial this has been a real privilege. Getting the pilot off the ground is tribute to the tireless work of local GPs, community NHS services, the care homes and a range of partners in Cheltenham.

Faithfull House has very strong connections with local GP surgeries and this has meant we can lead the way in vaccinating some of the most vulnerable people in Gloucestershire.

Whilst challenging, I am confident that local GP surgery staff and vaccinators are dedicated to ensuring that residents and staff are prepared, fully understand the programme and have consented to receiving the vaccination.”

Professor Steve Hams, Director of Quality and Chief Nurse at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is leading the overall vaccination programme delivery in Gloucestershire, and said:

“We know that older adults in care homes are at higher risk from the spread of COVID-19 and resulting illness and we so pleased that this vital element of the community programme, delivering vaccinations to local care home residents and staff, has started up here in Gloucestershire.

Getting the Pfizer vaccine to care home residents is complex and challenging because of the requirements for transporting it and the temperature at which it is stored. However, it is now possible to take this out to care homes following confirmation that the Pfizer vaccine can be packed into smaller pack sizes.”

So far, people aged over 80 and health and social care staff have started receiving the vaccine since the first delivery came into the county earlier in December. The NHS is moving quickly to continue this rollout over the coming weeks and months.