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Vaccine campaign continues as ICC centre opens

PUBLIC VACCINATION ROLLOUT: The public vaccination centre in the ICC opened its doors on Monday as older members of the public began to be inoculated against Covid-19. Above is the GHA nursing team as they prepared to welcome the first group of people who were vaccinated.

The Gibraltar Health Authority continued to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech on Monday, including the first vaccinations at the public vaccination centre in the ICC.

The first member of the public to receive the vaccine was Albert Beiso, aged 100.

Over the coming days, and thanks to a major logistical operation set up by the GHA and its partner agencies, up to 500 vaccines will be delivered daily to the elderly and most vulnerable members of the community, and to frontline healthcare staff.

Getting the vaccines from freezer to arm is no mean feat.

The vaccines are stored at -70°C in specialised freezers and, once thawed, the vaccines will last just five days, highlighting the urgency needed in this vaccination campaign.

The vaccine can be thawed in a normal fridge overnight. Once thawed, 1.8ml of salt water is added and it is gently mixed.

After it is mixed, each vial will contain five or six doses and will expire after six hours.

The first and second doses will be administered at most 12 weeks apart and after seven days from the second dose, a person should be immune.

But despite the urgency, great care needs to be taken by nursing staff.

The vaccine is fragile and needs to be gently mixed, as harsh handling can result in the protein being broken.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is made up mRNA – a messenger RNA. This mRNA is a genetic material that encodes the viral protein.

Trials involving 42,000 people found the vaccine was 95% effective.

The administrative support team.

In Gibraltar, the vaccine rollout started early on Sunday morning at 4.30am when the first vials were removed from the ultra-cold storage freezers by GHA Pharmacists Shiraz Siblim and Melanie Gordon.

After undertaking all the necessary checks, the vials were delivered to the GHA staff vaccination centre at St Bernard’s Hospital and, with a RGP escort, to the ERS home, Hillsides.

On arrival in these two locations, the vaccine was refrigerated for three hours (as required) before being reconstituted for injection by nursing staff.

Dr Krishna Rawal was the very first person in Gibraltar to receive the Covid-19 vaccination at the staff vaccination station at St Bernard’s Hospital.

Dr Rawal, who is the acting Medical Director of the GHA and also a practicing GP, received his vaccination from District Nurse Daniella Hernandez at 08:44 on Sunday morning.

Over the course of the day a total of 288 members of front-line GHA staff received their first dose of the vaccine through the eight vaccination stations in the hospital.

The first ERS resident to receive their vaccine was Mr Robert Durrell, a 93-year-old gentleman who is a former nurse tutor, mentor, and role model to many nurses practicing in Gibraltar today.

Mr Durrell was vaccinated by Jolyn Gonzalez, the ERS Nursing Coordinator.

In total, 47 ERS residents were vaccinated on Sunday along with 85 members of ERS front line clinical and care staff.

Day one of the vaccination programme saw 420 people receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Gibraltar.

No adverse reactions have been seen in anyone receiving the vaccine on Sunday.

On Monday the process continued with more vaccine being removed from storage before 5am.

The RGP provided a police escort for the delivery to the vaccination centres, including the public vaccination centre in the former PCC in Casemates Square, which started vaccinating some of the oldest residents of Gibraltar.

ERS deployed their vaccination team to Mount Alvernia and both Cochrane and Calpe wards to vaccinate residents and staff there.

The Minister for Health and Care Samantha Sacramento called this a momentous day for Gibraltar.

“The fact that the teams from ERS and the GHA have managed to vaccinate 420 residents and staff in one day is truly remarkable,” she said.

“Every person who has been vaccinated today is now starting to build an immune response to help protect them, their families, the public, and for staff their patients from this horrible virus.”

“Seeing the photos of Mr Durrell after he had received his vaccine made me quite emotional and I know many other people felt the same way. I would like to express my grateful thanks to everyone who has been involved in the vaccination programme for their dedication and commitment to saving lives.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our reporters are working round-the-clock to bring you the latest news on Gibraltar and the Covid-19 crisis. All our coverage on this critical issue is available free outside the paywall. If you find it useful, please help us reach more people by sharing our journalism. And if you want to support our work further, please consider subscribing to the digital version of our daily newspaper and all our premium online content. You can subscribe via our website or for iOS devices via the iTunes store. Thank you.

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