By Daniel Holland | LDRS

Huge efforts to vaccinate every care home resident and worker in Newcastle and North Tyneside against Covid-19 have been hailed as “the start of the long road back to normality”.

It was revealed on Thursday that Newcastle was set to become one of the first places in the UK to give a Covid vaccine to everyone living or working in a care home by the end of this week – a crucial milestone in the fight against the virus.

City health chiefs have now confirmed that every care home resident, more than 1,600 people in over 50 care homes, has now been given their first jab.

There are some staff yet to get their vaccination, though the vast majority have now received at least one dose, and those still waiting are being offered slots at the mass vaccination hub that opened at the Centre for Life this week.

And in North Tyneside, residents and staff from the borough’s 31 residential and nursing homes have all received their first dose of either the the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines.

Coun Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “In less than two weeks we have protected the most vulnerable people in our communities, providing the residents and their families with a sense of reassurance and hope they have longed for.

“It is also relief for care home staff who have given so much during this pandemic, prioritising the health and care of the residents they work with.

“This is the start of the long road back to normality for our city, a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

“If we continue to work together in such a positive, cooperative way we can shape a recovery that benefits everyone in our city whilst protecting our most vulnerable communities.

“I would like to thank every member of staff, health care worker and care home for their role in this programme. We must all continue to do our bit, to follow the guidance and remember the basics: HANDS – FACE – SPACE.”

Vaccinations in care homes in Newcastle began on December 30 – with seven teams of district nurses, GPs, logistics staff and care home workers tasked with delivering the jabs.

Rebecca Haynes, chief operating officer of Newcastle GP Services, said that the task of rapidly rolling out the vaccine to the city’s most vulnerable had been “incredibly challenging but an absolute privilege”.

She added: “Care homes, their staff and their residents have been impacted deeply by the pandemic, they have all made great sacrifices and being able to provide them with the protection and a glimmer of hope has been incredibly rewarding.

“We would like to thank every care home, member of staff, GP, nurse, volunteer and resident who has played a critical role in this vaccination programme.

“We are not out of the woods yet and I would urge people to follow the guidance in full, stay at home unless essential and help stop the spread of the virus.”

A total of 433,045 vaccine doses have been delivered in the North East and Yorkshire – a number bettered only by the Midlands.

The North East and Yorkshire has also vaccinated the highest proportion of over-80s of anywhere in England.

Dr Susannah Thompson, medical director of TyneHealth said:  “I am thrilled to confirm that vaccination teams have given first doses of Covid-19 vaccine to the residents and staff in all care homes for older adults, across North Tyneside.

“It has been a pleasure to see such amazing teamwork and I would like to praise everyone who has dedicated their time and effort to making this a success.

“Our highest priority was to find a way for the Covid-19 vaccine to be administered as quickly and as safely as possible to this most vulnerable group.”