The first round of Covid vaccinations are taking place this weekend at Parkshot Medical Centre in Richmond. 

975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were delivered on Thursday to Parkshot, which is the beating heart of the Covid vaccination programme in Richmond. Four other local surgeries are sending their most important patients there to be immunised. It is a race against time for NHS clinics across the country to get the Pfizer vaccines used as they need to be stored at -70oc - facilities which no GP surgery in the country has. Once they leave deep freeze the vaccines will last just four days in the refrigerators present at GP practices. 

In Richmond the bulk of the vaccinations have been happening on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th of January. Over 80s and health workers are the only people being vaccinated in this first wave. In an interview on Thursday Deborah Taylor, managing partner at Parkshot, said: ‘While many people might just see vaccination as inserting a needle in an arm, it is important not to forget the hours which the patient liaison team at Parkshot have spent contacting nearly a 1000 eligible people and organising their appointment.’

The hard work was clearly visible on Friday where outside the clinic a small socially distanced legion of volunteers were bracing the cold to help guide the patients. One GP told me she had to ‘vaccinate one person every three minutes’ to reach the daily target of around 500 doses. Nonetheless, it appeared that the complex operation was going very smoothly, with a steady trickle of satisfied patients entering and leaving the building. Although as one freshly vaccinated man remarked to other patients sitting outside, ‘it’s not the weather for sunbathing’.

Good news for GP surgeries across the country is that the new Astrazeneca vaccine lasts for six months in refrigeration and Parkshot hopes to start using it by February. This will lower the environmental and economic cost of cold storage and ensure that no vaccine is wasted. A lady seated outside the centre told me she had ‘barely been out for nine months’. Hopefully this vaccine will serve as a lifeline for many like her.