Patients turned down vaccine to 'wait for an English one,' says Hartlepool doctor

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Frustration about patients turning down the chance to receive a covid vaccine has seen a Hartlepool doctor seek to bust a few myths.

Former Labour MP Dr Paul Williams, who has been working on the frontline against covid in Hartlepool, aired concern about patients turning down the Pfizer vaccine in favour of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – with some saying they would “rather wait for the English one”.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has ruled both jabs are safe and effective in offering protection against the virus.

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And the new Oxford vaccine has reached a number of GP surgeries in the Tees Valley this week.

Dr Paul Williams, who has been working on the covid frontline in HartlepoolDr Paul Williams, who has been working on the covid frontline in Hartlepool
Dr Paul Williams, who has been working on the covid frontline in Hartlepool

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service both vaccines would offer significant protection from two weeks after receiving the first jab.

“It takes a bit of time for your body to use the vaccine to produce the antibodies which are the immune response,” he added.

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“Both vaccines offer really good protection from two weeks after the first jab until about 12 weeks.

Dr Paul Williams has been trying to bust some of the myths around covid vaccinesDr Paul Williams has been trying to bust some of the myths around covid vaccines
Dr Paul Williams has been trying to bust some of the myths around covid vaccines

“After that, they need a booster in order for that protection to continue.”

Can the vaccine stop you spreading covid?

A covid vaccine being administered.A covid vaccine being administered.
A covid vaccine being administered.

The JCVI has ruled second jabs will be given towards the back end of a 12 week period in a bid to roll out more vaccines faster and to more people.

The former Stockton South MP agreed with this stance.

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“It’s much better for both your nan and your grandad to have 95% protection, than to have your nan with 95% protection and your grandad with none,” added Dr Williams.

“We know the jabs give really good protection against symptomatic covid – something we’re not yet quite sure of is whether or not they completely stop you from getting covid at all.

“You might still be getting asymptomatic covid – and we don’t yet know whether you might still be infectious to other people.

“You still need to do all the social distancing, hand-washing and masks because the jab protects you but it might not protect other people.”

How busy is it?

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Teesside hospitals have warned they’re under significant pressure from the virus coupled with winter demands as community cases rise.

Hartlepool in particular has recorded rates above 800 cases per 100,000 people – the highest level seen since larger scale testing was brought in last year.

Dr Williams has been working at covid clinics in Hartlepool, Stockton and Northallerton – before working shifts at urgent care centres in Hartlepool and Stockton.

He warned it had “never been busier” with younger people in particular among those he was seeing more.

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“Almost without exception everyone is talking about being short of breath – with people talking about the most awful pain as though someone is sitting on their chest,” he said.

People feel completely wiped out – and almost all of them are saying “I wish everyone took this a bit more seriously” because this is a really serious illness.

“Not everyone gets it bad but if you do, it’s really bad for people – it’s a horrible illness.”

Dr Williams added: “In this wave of the illness we’re seeing more younger people who are more severely ill.”

What is hypoxia?

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While severely ill patients will end up in hospital with covid, many people are being treated in the community in “virtual wards” – with devices to measure their pulse, blood oxygen levels and temperature.

Dr Williams said this had reassured lots of people.

“You cannot overestimate how reassuring it is for people to have contact with somebody once or twice a day – know that someone is watching them,” he added.

“It also detects cases of silent hypoxia. Hypoxia is when oxygen levels in the blood go down and they can fall before someone gets really ill and before someone feels breathless.

“It detects it early and you can intervene early.

“And there is emerging evidence that if you get people into hospital on treatment earlier, then it improves their outlook.”

How is morale?

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North Tees staff warned before Christmas they were very tired – and continued pressures are putting those on the front line under continued strain.

Dr Williams said morale was good for now.

“NHS staff are pulling together and I’ve seen urgent care has got a little bit quieter since this lockdown,” he added.

“It feels like the previous lockdown – perhaps people are not going out or drinking or there are fewer injuries and that’s all helps the NHS.

“At the same time the number of covid cases has increased.

“The important message is the NHS is still open for business – please, if you’ve got a health problem please contact health services.

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“Both vaccines have been independently assessed as safe and effective – they work, they do the job and they’re safe.

“The final message is please don’t call your GP practice asking when you’ll get your jab because the phone lines are getting jammed up with people asking that.”

Dr Williams will stand as the Labour candidate for election in Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner elections in May.

Former Redcar and Cleveland councillor Steve Turner will represent to Conservative Party at the polls.

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