COVID update March 13th, 2021:
Yesterday the number of people vaccinated in the UK reached 23,314,525 (about 44% of the adult population) with over 1,445,000 having their booster 2nd jabs now and that figure is set to start increasing sharply as the 12 week limit looms for many those who received their first Oxford AstraZeneca dose in January. We are on course to have offered a vaccination to all 32m in the 9 priority cohorts with at least their first dose by mid-April and that is looking increasingly cautious and could even be reached by the beginning of next month. All those who have been given their first dose will automatically be invited for their booster jab to the same place with the same type of vaccine, and those who used the mass vaccination centres have been given their follow up date already. Sufficient future supplies of vaccine have been earmarked for this purpose.
Most of the focus in the last week has been on the GP hubs working through the 7.3m in Cohort 6 whilst the mass vaccination centres have opened up to Cohorts 7 and 8. Apologies for some temporary confusion last week when people in Cohort 8 (55-59 year olds) were able to book but initially only from age 56 to stagger the demand. This was soon extended to 55-year olds as well.
From Tuesday 16th, people in the final priority Cohort 9 will be able to book in at the mass vaccination centres and invitation letters from the NHS nationally will start arriving from that day in batches of 800,000 or so per day. However, as previously, from Tuesday you will be able to book into a mass vaccination centre whether or not you have physically received your letter. That will mean that anyone aged 50 or above can now book an appointment.
If you would prefer to have your vaccination through your own surgery at one of the GP hubs then you need do nothing and they will contact you in due course. As I have said before this is likely to take longer because they are still ploughing through Cohort 6 and other ‘latecomers’ from older cohorts and increasingly starting to give second jabs. Please do not hassle your surgery. Several doctors have told me their staff are spending a lot of time needlessly on vaccine enquiries from people who have not been called yet. In the vast majority of cases this is not because you have been missed but simply that they have not got to your name on the list yet.
Nationally some 56% of Cohort 6 has been vaccinated whilst 55% of Cohort 7 have also been covered already because most of them booked at a mass vaccination centre. A few in the younger cohorts have been vaccinated locally where their GP surgery is ahead of schedule and has had spare capacity.
Next week supplies are likely to double and capacity will be ramped up considerably. Although we do not have any pharmacies offering vaccines locally a further 64 pharmacies will come online nationally next week and 100 more the following week.
This week the NHS wrote to all GP surgeries offering vaccinations to see whether they want to renew their contracts. Initially all GP surgeries participating have contracted to vaccinate all in the priority 9 cohorts with both jabs. It is likely that most GP surgeries will continue working on the under 50-year olds after that and they will need to extend their lease on whatever premises they have moved into to operate the hubs such as Lancing Parish Hall. There may be a few smaller surgeries who are under pressure and need to catch up on their day to day patient work and will not renew. I am not aware of any that may choose to ‘opt out’ locally but the Clinical Commissioning Group will be responsible for making alternative arrangements if that arises. The mass vaccination centres are all likely to stay put for the foreseeable.
For anyone worried about Denmark and Iceland suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of concerns over blood clots this seems to a huge overaction. Out of 5 million people vaccinated apparently just 30 people have developed blood clots and it is not clear that they are at all linked to their jab in any case. The risks of catching a serious bout of COVID are obviously substantially higher. All adverse reactions in the UK have to be reported to the NHS and are published in what is called the Yellow Book for all to see. There have been no reported deaths linked to the vaccine which given the numbers now vaccinated is remarkable.
The vaccination committee JCVI is currently considering advice around vaccinating pregnant women which will obviously be more relevant as we come on to younger cohorts. Apparently in the US over 20,000 pregnant women have so far been vaccinated without problem and trials are also ongoing in the UK on vaccinating children. When appropriate, pregnant women should seek advice from their GP and note what the updated JCVI guidance says.
Our local hospitals continue to cope extremely well and as COVID numbers fall dramatically they are gradually picking up elective treatments which have inevitably been delayed. Locally they have also been rolling out the second jab to many of their staff having started with the first Pfizer jab before Christmas.
There are now just 6 COVID patients in Worthing Hospital including only 1 in ITU against 15 and 5 respectively a week ago. There have been 2 deaths in the last week sadly. At St Richard’s the current figures are 12 and 0 against 20 and 0 last week with 2 further deaths also.
At the Royal Sussex County in Brighton there are currently 17 COVID patients including 6 in ITU against 28 and 10 last week with a further 11 deaths. These are also obviously dramatic falls from peak figures reported.
- The proportion of over 75-year olds vaccinated in West Sussex is remarkably now up to just shy of 96%. For Cohort 7 (70-74-year olds) it is 94.7%, Cohort 6 (Higher risk) is 67%. From this you will see that the GP surgeries still have just under a third of the large Cohort 6 to go through which will remain their focus but as the increased supplies next week make many more slots available they will be increasingly inviting Cohorts 7 and above to attend locally if they have not yet gone to a mass vaccination centre, to make sure they continue operating at full capacity and no vaccine is wasted.
- This week the number of vaccinations across the whole of Sussex exceeded 700,000 with over 100,000 of those administered at the mass vaccination centres which is remarkable given that the first one at the Brighton Centre only opened at the end of January. The CCG is looking to roll-out over 140,000 jabs a week across Sussex for the next 4 weeks up to the April 15th target for the priority cohorts, which as I have said I anticipate we will reach sooner.
- For those people who still want to complain to me claiming that we are somehow behind the rest of the country, in East Worthing & Shoreham as at Thursday we had vaccinated 39,252 constituents and with the extras since then we are now well over 50% of the adult population vaccinated in East Worthing & Shoreham and we remain in the top quartile of constituencies nationally.
- Crawley, Chichester and Eastbourne mass vaccination centres are each geared up to offer up to 1000 vaccinations a day from next week. Brighton will increase to 2500 doses a day and can go to 3000 if the supply and demand is there. With the new Cohorts now being invited the spare slots have all now been taken up so typically you may have to wait a week or so from booking your slot to the next available appointment, depending on time of day.
- Again, some people have asked if we could have a mass vaccination centre at somewhere like the Charmandean Centre in Worthing (which the owners have offered) but this would not be as efficient, spreading the vaccinators and supply more thinly. The name of the game is giving as many as possible their first jab as quickly as possible and believe me they really are working extremely productively, and everyone is working flat out. When we start on the younger cohorts and new vaccine types come online the NHS will look again at whether they can deliver quicker through opening up additional larger centres.
- COVID infection rates locally have fallen substantially. Adur is now down to just 11 cases per 100,000 people and Worthing has fallen sharply after last week’s artificial spike to 43. The UK average is 63.6. Whilst nationally the death rate is down by 35.4% on the week and hospitalisations are down by 27.5% (though locally by much more) the infection rate is only down by 7.3%. However this is a reflection of the record number of tests being carried out particularly with the return of schools with over 1.5m tests happening in one day alone recently so it is a much bigger sample, yet the figures have continued to fall with the ‘R’ rate now estimated at between 0.6-0.8.
- For more detailed information you can look at the briefings provided by the Sussex CCG at https://mailchi.mp/a5bc36cc5d72/west-sussex-covid-19-vaccination-update-9-march-12345?e=89726a9e92
Last Sunday I had my first jab which was the Oxford AstraZeneca version. Thank you to all those who commented on my chest hair in the obligatory photo! I was in and out in 5 minutes, it didn’t hurt a bit and I am glad to report no side effects at all. On Monday my wife will be getting her jab at the Brighton Centre and I am due to be paying the Centre a visit next Friday along with my colleague Mims Davies, MP for Mid Sussex, to see how things are going at first hand and thank everyone for their hard work. I will be back volunteering at the Lancing vaccination hub again tomorrow hopefully with some more homemade sausage rolls for the workers by popular demand.
So, don’t delay and don’t dither – get yours done as soon as you are eligible.