The over 85s and over 80s in line to receive the Pfizer BioNTec vaccine against Covid-19, are a practical and positive bunch, according to Dr Gerry Mansfield in Dun Laoghaire whose practice, by the middle of this week, will have vaccinated about 1,700 of its over-70s cohort. This group comprises more than ten per cent of its 14,000-strong patient base.
“The first day we vaccinated our over 85s we were struck by their enthusiasm, their sense that they had played their part and had come through and were looking forward to hugging their grandchildren,” Dr Mansfield, of the Sheehan Medical Centric Health practice, told Positively The Gloss. “They were also extremely well informed about the sort of protection they were getting and the need for day-to-day Covid-19 precautions to remain in place.” Despite there being no real changes to everyday life just yet, the buzz was palpable: “They were hopeful about their ticket to freedom, and buoyant about the future.”
There are clock-ticking challenges presented by the Pfizer vaccine – it needs to be used within 120 hours of leaving the deep freeze, within two hours of leaving the practice fridge and within six hours after being mixed with saline, so GP practices need to be well mobilised. “This vaccine does require methodical attention to process,” Dr Mansfield says, “it’s a precious resource with an expiry date, it needs to be delicately handled, timed and logged.”
“They were hopeful about their ticket to freedom, and buoyant about the future.”
The challenges do not stop there – juggling the vaccine with social distancing requirements of two metres and a mandatory 15-minute observation period has meant that practices have had to be creative, turning clinical rooms into vaccine stations and observation rooms. At Sheehan Medical they operate a “buddy system”, with clinicians pairing up to crosscheck each other’s work.
The HSE makes a vaccine delivery via Cold Chain Delivery to the practice every two weeks. Dr Mansfield’s over-85s patient cohort got their first jab two weeks ago and will get their second in two weeks – an interval of four weeks.
There is much talk about adverse reactions of mRNA vaccines, such as fever, nausea, and diarrhoea, but in Dr Mansfield’s experience these are mild and very rarely cause concern for the older cohort. “They may experience some redness at the vaccination site, a sore arm or a slight temperature or headache, much as they would with a seasonal flu vaccine, but these are slight and transient symptoms.”
If you are taking elderly parents, relatives or friends for their vaccine, Dr Mansfield has the following tips:
-The vaccine is delivered high up on the shoulder so patients should wear a sleeveless or short-sleeved top under a warm coat
-Patients can take paracetamol (unless contra-indicated for this by other medication) before and after the vaccination and before bed
-Patients can expect some symptoms of tiredness and fatigue; advice is don’t fight it; listen to your body and rest if you feel like it
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