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  • Writer's pictureRichard Cree


Updated: Dec 9, 2020

UK COVID Deaths – Daily 616 / 7-Day average 426

Total UK COVID Deaths within 28 days – 62,033

Total UK Deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate – 73,125 (up to 27th Nov)

James Cook Hospital – Total COVID deaths – 361

All COVID cases within South Tees Hospitals Trust – 94

James Cook Critical Care

COVID cases – 14 (7 ventilated)

Non-COVID cases – 47 (17 ventilated)

I was vaccinated against COVID-19 today.

Along with many other hospitals around the country, James Cook got off to an early start, vaccinating their first patient shortly after half past seven this morning. One of the big lecture theatres in the Research, Education and Innovation Centre has been turned into a mass vaccination clinic. Those being vaccinated today included care home workers, patients over 80 years of age and some frontline colleagues. It’s quite an impressive operation and appears to be running very smoothly.

The first consignment of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine arrived in the UK from Belgium a few days ago. It’s a refreshing change to have something come out of Belgium that is neither beer, chocolate or Brexit-related. Large quantities of the vaccine were distributed to certain hospitals around the UK in time for vaccinations to begin today. When this plan was initially announced, it looked as if Teesside had all but been forgotten Our hospital was conspicuously absent from a list of 53 that had been chosen. No nearby hospital was on the list either. This meant that Newcastle was the only vaccine hub located in the far north of the country.

To my surprise, my parents‘ local hospital in Worcestershire was included in this initial list of designated vaccine hubs. Quite why a hospital in the safe Tory heartland that is Worcestershire would have been chosen over one in Middlesbrough completely escapes me. However, it seems that I wasn’t the only person who thought that the North East had been sadly neglected; a revised list that included The James Cook Hospital was soon published.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine - enough to vaccinate 20 million people. Other vaccines will be coming on line soon including the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine which today published the results from their Phase three vaccine trials. Phase three research trials represent the final, pre-production stage of a vaccine’s development. More than 20,000 volunteers took part. In those who received two standard doses, the vaccine efficacy was 62.1%. In those who received a low dose followed by a standard dose, the efficacy increased to 90.0%. The vaccine appears to be safe, with only one serious adverse event documented in those who received the vaccine. This participant subsequently recovered and is still taking part in the trial.

I was vaccinated today by Carmel, a Medical Technologist who normally works in the hospital’s Nuclear Medicine Department. My medical screening questionnaire was completed by Jeremy, who is one of my ICU Consultant colleagues. They are both part of a small army of volunteers who have come from every corner of the hospital to ensure that we can efficiently vaccinate as many people as possible.

To be honest, I barely felt a thing (thanks Carmel) and have no side effects to report. I was told that the most common complaints included arm-pain, headache and fatigue. Less common adverse effects include fever, muscle and/or joint pain. More severe side-effects seem to be very rare and include, according to the website, being ‘chipped’ and controlled by Bill Gates, and slowly turning into a troglodyte as the vaccine changes my DNA.

All joking aside, today really was a great day. This is the moment that many of us have been waiting for. Vaccination remains the only practical and effective way to bring this pandemic to a timely end. There is still a long way to go and we all need to continue to be careful but we are off to a cracking start. The end is beginning.

My vaccine card. I got a sticker but was hoping for a lollipop...

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Richard Cree
Richard Cree
Dec 11, 2020 Hopefully the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine dosing quirk will prove to genuinely increase efficacy rather than being some statistical quirk. Perhaps mixing and matching vaccines will work. Even a vaccination that is 70% effective if given to enough people could protect everyone if it prevents viral transmission. In this scenario your protection comes from a combination of the individual protection from the vaccine and ‘herd immunity’. In this scenario, the protection offered by such a vaccine would be almost complete. We will have to wait and see. Cheers, Richard

Dec 10, 2020

Hi Richard,

It is good to hear someone like yourself comment on the disparity between Tory and non-Tory constituencies. Given the North East CFR etc, deprivation it seems odd this was missing initially.

All healthcare staff should get the vaccine first, if only as a thank you for putting yourselves in harms way during this year. Obviously it also makes sense with regards to hospital acquired Covid. Last but not least, all people working within the thick of Covid definitely need a vaccine urgently to protect those they go home to every night.

The priority list looks about right, my partner is at level 4 due to being extremely clinically vulnerable despite being in her late 50's. As a 49…


Richard Cree
Richard Cree
Dec 09, 2020

Thanks Rick. That’s a good point - they should publish a daily vaccinated count. Presumably they’re worried about any figure that might measure ‘performance’. They were badly burnt over testing figures earlier in the year! Cheers, Rich


Richard Cree
Richard Cree
Dec 09, 2020

Hi again Jon. Not sure we can compare the vaccines at this stage. It will create problems if one is more effective than the other or if one gets a reputation for side effects when compared to another! We’ll have to wait and see what mixing and matching them does for efficacy. The Astra Zeneca small-dose/big-dose quirk certainly implies that this is well worth a look. Cheers, Richard


Dec 09, 2020

Thanks for this and I'm glad that you and your colleagues (presumably) get to be high up on the list. Great to hear that we haven't been completely left out in the north east. It's a shame that the news hasn't picked up on the big picture stories, just features on individual experiences rather than the process and successes of the program. Why they aren't publishing an x number will have been vaccinated by the end of the week, rather than Joe from Oxford was vaccinated today is beyond me.

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