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Gibraltar starts vaccinating against Covid-19

Acting Medical Director Krishna Rawal received the first Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Gibraltar this morning.

At approximately 5am on Sunday morning staff from the GHA Pharmacy Team removed some of the vaccines, which arrived to both great fanfare and relief on Saturday evening, from the freezer in St Bernard’s Hospital so they would thaw.

At 8.44am district nurse Daniella Hernandez administered the first vaccine to Dr Rawal, the first of approximately 300 vaccines that will be injected on Sunday to GHA and Elderly Residential Services.

“I feel fine, perfect, absolutely great,” said Dr Rawal.

“Very efficient I didn’t feel it go in.”

“It is a tiny amount of liquid anyway so I didn’t feel it which is great.”

He called the process of the vaccination programme, dubbed Operation Freedom, so far as “perfect”.

“When you walk into the actual vaccination room you get a sense of proper efficiency,” he said.

“All the team are there. The vaccinators clearly know what they are doing. They are all prepared.”

He explained that they have batches of six at a time and this is to ensure they use the vaccine as quickly as possible. Because once the vaccine is thawed it lasts up to five days but once it is reconstituted by mixing it with sodium chloride to make it up to the 1.8ml it only lasts a short period of time.

“So once we have done that bit and are ready to inject we have to get a bit of a move on,” he said.

“They have been really efficient, making it up in batches ready to go. They have been fantastic.”

Immediately after Dr Rawal was administered his vaccine five others were injected.

These people and the subsequent recipients were frontline staff members such as frontline clinical staff and managers and staff members who have been conducting the Covid-19 swabbing tests.

“They are the ones who are not only swabbing staff but they are also the ones going into homes to swab. So they are the really really really exposed ones. So they are the ones who we will vaccinate straight away,” said Dr Rawal.

The teams aim to administer approximately 300 vaccines on Sunday, on subsequent days the PCC will deliver who will administer to the general community aim to do 500 a day.

“The idea behind that is number one, we want everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said.

“But also as I said the clock is ticking a little bit. So once you thaw the vaccine out and once you reconstitute it your time window is short so you want to use it up as quickly as we can.”

The GHA Pharmacy Team will remove vaccines from the freezer at 5am every morning a new batch is required.

These batches will also be sent to Elderly Residential Services, just like the batches that arrived at places such as Hillside around 8am on Sunday morning, to the old Primary Care Centre in the ICC and to the vaccination centre at St Bernard’s Hospital.

“We will constantly have a fresh batch. The aim being to use up every day what we essentially pull out so we never waste any,” said Dr Rawal.

“That is key issue.”

“It is so long awaited. The global supply is so tight that we can’t afford to waste a single dose.”

The team will vaccinated seven days a week until all the vaccines are used, he confirmed.

Having had the vaccine Dr Rawal was given a leaflet on what to expect.

“The instructions straight after the injection is to stay around here for 15 minutes in case I start to fell faint or a little unwell,” he said.

“That is normal pretty well for most vaccines anyway.”

“And then the instructions leaflet just gives you a list of those possible side effects that may occur over the next 24 to 48 hours. Which I think again is pretty common to all injections.”

“I don’t see anything on that list which is unusual. Maybe a bit of pain at the injection site, maybe feeling a little bit fluey or coldy but I do not see anything different to any other injections,” he added.

Photo Gallery

Dr Sohail Bhatti, the Director of Public Health, receives his Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

"The vaccination team at ERS this morning ready to vaccinate the precious residents at Hillsides, the most vulnerable citizens to Covid-19 who we must keep safe. The team will also vaccinate ERS staff," said a Government official.

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