COVID update February 13th, 2021
Today the number of people who have received a first dose of vaccine exceeded 14m and the coverage rate should be well over 90% of the top four cohorts by the end of the weekend ahead of the February 15th target date. On Thursday incredibly over 500,000 people were vaccinated in a single day at a rate of 1000 per minute at one stage. This represents more than 25% of the adult population of the UK which is an extraordinary effort and the impressive pace of rollout continues. We also had the very encouraging news that the Reproduction ‘R’ rate of the infection has fallen below the crucial 1 level for the first time since July and is now estimated at between 0.7-0.9 nationally.
As a result, some vaccination hubs have already started to jab to people in Cohort 5 aged between 65-69 so that no time is lost waiting on the remaining people in the top 4 cohorts. It is yet to be confirmed but it is likely that people in Cohort 5 will be encouraged to go to the mass vaccination centres such as the Brighton Centre and Crawley Hospital whilst the local GP hubs will focus on Cohort 6 which is the largest group by far with an estimated 7.3m people. Cohort 6 includes all those between 18-65 deemed at risk due to underlying health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and learning disabilities as well as registered carers and certain others. Your GP will have a record of whether you fall under that criteria and will contact you so again please do not hassle surgeries.
If people do not want to travel to Brighton or are unable to then they will still be able to have their jab through the local GP hub who will contact you in the normal way. However, given that the GP hubs will have 7.3m other people to work through as well as starting to give second jabs it is likely to be quite a long gap before you are called. You are strongly advised therefore to go through one of the mass vaccination centres if you possibly can when you receive a letter inviting you to attend.
This weekend the vaccination centres are continuing to work through the last few people in the top 4 cohorts who have not responded to invitations to have their jab for whatever reason. Some of those will obviously be people who have taken an active decision not to have the vaccine which is up to them as it is not compulsory, but the ‘decliners’ are very few and less than had been anticipated. In my experience only a very few people have been ‘missed’ altogether for whatever reason. If you are in the top 4 cohorts and still have not been contacted then you should now proactively book a vaccination slot either by booking online, ringing 119 or contacting your local surgery in that order. More details are available here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccinat…
The Government is confident that there is an ample supply of vaccine coming through to guarantee that all the 32m people in the top 9 priority cohorts will be vaccinated by the end of April and that sufficient vaccine of the same type is now being reserved to give people their second dose within the 12 week gap limit. Over the next few weeks people will start to be given a date for their booster second vaccination and the intention is that in most cases you will receive it at the same place where you had your first. The remaining 21m adult population will then be vaccinated probably from the end of April by which time the flow of new vaccine coming available should make it an even more rapid and smooth process. Research is taking place all the time to see whether vaccines need to be adapted to deal with the new variants that are springing up.
Some people have suggested that they would rather that younger people in certain professions should be vaccinated ahead of someone who is say 60. The NHS is looking at whether certain groups of people such as some teachers or nursery staff for example should be prioritised and an announcement will be made in due course. However, the experts calculate that someone in their sixties is still 4 times as likely to be impacted seriously by catching COVID as someone in their twenties for example. So, these decisions are still based on balance of risk.
In patient levels at the local hospitals continue to fall in line with the national situation. Today Worthing Hospital has a total of 59 COVID patients compared with 72 last week including 10 in ITU down from 13 last week. Sadly 10 more patients have died over the last week. For those people who keep badgering on social media to know the age profile and other details of those who have lost their lives I do not have that information nor do I think it would be appropriate for me to publish it in any case.
At St Ricard’s the total of 70 including 9 in ITU is down from 93 and 11 respectively last week. At the Royal Sussex County in Brighton the current figures are 62 and 21 showing the biggest % falls from 98 and 34 last week. Again, thank you to all the NHS professionals who continue to work so selflessly.
Vaccinations – local picture
- Across Sussex over 411,000 people had received their first vaccine dose as at Thursday.
- Before the weekend the vaccination rate for over 80’s was more than 93% and for 75-79’s over 92%. Those figures and those for the other 2 top priority groups will have improved further by the end of the weekend but are very high already.
- The infection rate in Adur has shown one of the fastest falls across Sussex in the last week. There are now 102 people testing positive for COVID per 100,000 in Adur which is a 53% fall on last Friday. In Worthing the rate is down 32% at 144 per 100,000. The all England average is 176 so we are well below again but no time to be complacent.
- An additional 500 personnel helping with the rollout have been added across Sussex. The infrastructure is now there to be able to cope within an even higher vaccination rate once additional vaccine is available. There is likely to be a small drop-off in supply over the next week or so as the manufacturing plants have reconfigured their production lines to boost capacity. Having said that the Lancing vaccination centre has been promised 2740 vaccine doses over the next 14-day window and will therefore be in operation for several days again from the end of next week and the following. Having a 14-day supply window from now on will make it much easier for vaccination centres to plan their schedules going forward.
- The oversupply problem with Worthing Hospital last week was sorted out and vaccine doses were moved around the locality to other centres who were short.
- I was notified yesterday about a potential problem with people aged 65-69 who had received their letter to book in at Brighton or other mass vaccination centres but were blocked from doing so online. This was due to a computer problem as the system was still focussing on the over seventies until February 15th. That should have been sorted out now and the cases that came to me have now booked in. If you do experience that problem just keep trying. There are plenty of slots available and Brighton has been vaccinating 1200 a day and Crawley 300 which in both cases is below their capacity.
- Some people have complained that they have booked into the Brighton Centre for their jab and then the next day receive a call from their own surgery to attend locally, which seems a waste of time and resources. As I have explained before you do not have to go to a mass centre and can be looked after locally although with Cohort 5 going forward the wait will probably be a lot longer. The reason the local surgery does not know you have been booked in is because the national NHS system they use will only register you as vaccinated when you have physically had the jab after which your GP surgery should not be chasing you. The GP surgery would not know if you had failed to turn up for whatever reason and still needed a jab but they had crossed you off their list when you had booked in online to go to Brighton for example. It may seem bureaucratic, but this is the easiest way to deal with the huge numbers being vaccinated in such a short space of time and far better than not being on anyone’s list for vaccination.
- The Community Hub remains in operation providing support seven days a week from 8am to 8pm. Residents who require help as a result of COVID-19 can access the support by calling 033 022 27980 or by completing the online I need support form.
Given the good progress on the vaccine rollout and new treatments becoming available I hope to hear encouraging news when the Prime Minister makes a further announcement about how we can start to east the lockdown due on February 22nd. In the meantime, please do everyone continue to follow the rules, stay safe and get your jab as soon as you are contacted.