ST HELENS and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has officially launched its COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Frontline staff from across the Trust, which runs Whiston, St Helens and Newton Hospitals, as well as community services in the St Helens area, will now receive the vaccination to protect them against coronavirus.

This comes after the first residents in St Helens received vaccines earlier this month.

Haresfinch resident and former Saints player Bill Adair, 90, became the first in the borough to receive the vaccination as local GPs continue to vaccinate those most at risk in the community.

The first staff members at Whiston Hospital to receive the vaccine included staff from the Intensive Care Unit, Theatres, Community COPD Team and the Trust’s specialist rehabilitation unit.

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Amylia Cathcart, 30, a healthcare assistant from St Helens, was the first staff member to receive the vaccination. Amylia has worked at the Trust since the age of 15 after having work experience with the Pathology Team and then being offered a full time post at 16.

She now works evenings and nights at Seddon Rehabilitation Unit, St Helens Hospital, caring for those who have suffered brain illness or injury. She is currently studying medicine in Manchester.

Amylia said: “I woke up this morning so excited, it was like Christmas morning all over again! I called my friends and was shouting ‘I’m getting the vaccine today!’. The past 10 months have been hard for everyone in the NHS, but everyone at the Trust has really stepped up for each other and our patients. I’m so proud to work for the NHS.”

Dianne Green has worked for the NHS for over 30 years and is the Lead COPD Nurse for the Trust.

Her team has been working hard at the hospitals and in the community to help protect and support their patients throughout the pandemic, as they are classed as some of the most vulnerable to the serious effects of the virus.

She said: “Speaking to those most vulnerable over the past 10 months, they have been terrified of catching the virus. But now there is hope that the vaccine will protect them, and the more people who get vaccinated, the better it is for the protection of the wider community.

"Getting the vaccine myself today, I was anxious and excited all at the same time, I’m so relieved to have had it.”

The start of the Trust’s vaccination programme has been welcomed by chief executive, Ann Marr.

She said: “After such a difficult year, it is excellent news that we can end 2020 more positively with the roll out of our staff Covid-19 vaccination programme.

"The recent rise in cases shows that we cannot let our guard down, and this vaccine offers us the best possible chance to protect the most vulnerable in our community. I am incredibly proud of the work of the team here at STHK, and it is a special day to see the first of our staff come forward to be protected against the virus.”