The first wave of Covid-19 vaccinations were given at Abbey Surgery in Tavistock on Tuesday to nearly 1,000 local people over 85.

The combined effort to vaccinate 975 people was a joint effort by staff at Abbey, Tavyside Health Centre in Tavistock and Yelverton Surgery. The vaccine available has been shared equally between patients in the three practices. They will be asked to return for their second dose in two weeks’ time.

Tavistock was among eight sites across Devon — involving 49 GP practices — giving the vaccine on Tuesday and Wednesday, the first doctors surgeries to innoculate their patients against Covid-19 after the vaccinations were given to vulnerable patients in hospitals last week.

Abbey Surgery practice manager Darren Newland said: ‘We have only got vaccine for 975 people and so the guidance from NHS England was to vaccinate the eldest first.

‘They are having their first vaccine now and then in a few weeks’ time they will come back for their second vaccine.

‘One of the reasons were were picked as one of the first practices in the country to give out the vaccine is that in West Devon there are around 1,000 people over 85 who are not housebound and not in a care home. That is unusual and that is why we have become the priority.’

He said that about 50 members of staff across the three practices were involved in the vaccinations on Tuesday (December 15).

‘The good thing is because all the staff are working together on this we do have enough staff. This isn’t the first time we have worked together on something, but this is the first time we have done anything this big.’

Also among the eight sites giving the Pfizer/BioNTch vaccine on Tuesday was Okehampton Medical Centre, working with Moretonhampstead Health Centre, Chagford Health Centre and Blake House Surgery in Black Torrington. Again, 975 patients over 80 from the four practices were being asked to come along to Okehampton Medical Centre to be vaccinated. Elsewhere in Devon, a function room, a conference centre and even a tennis centre were pressed into service to act as sites for these first vaccinations of local people. The Riviera International Centre in Torquay, Exmough Tennis and Fitness Centre and The Staddy function centre in Plymouth have all been pressed into service to give the life-saving vaccinations.

Darryn Allcorn, Devon’s lead chief nurse, said: ‘We’re working seven days a week to make sure eligible people in Devon a vital vaccine as soon as possible. As a nurse I am proud to be part of this huge national effort to protect our patients against the virus and I would urge people in Devon to come forward when they are called up for the vaccine.

‘I can reassure everyone that the NHS will be in touch with you when it’s your turn to have the vaccine. Contacting your local hospital or practice only slows us down as it takes up precious time and resources to respond to the calls.’

More local vaccination centres will open in coming weeks in Devon.