Covid update February 20th, 2021
Having successfully completed vaccinations to the top 4 priority cohorts ahead of schedule last weekend, a further 452,000 people were jabbed yesterday and the total of first doses today exceeds 17 million. The other encouraging news is that the level of fatalities nationally is down by 30% to 533 on the week as hospital admissions continue to fall sharply but still remain at a high level.
Incredibly more than 62% of Cohort 5 of 65-69-year olds (2.9m people) have already been vaccinated, mostly through the mass vaccination centres, whilst GP surgery run hubs are concentrating on the large Cohort 6 of 7.3m+ people with higher risk conditions aged 16-65. GP’s have been asked to focus on Cohort 6 because they are best placed to know the medical condition of their own patients.
Because of this it is likely that letters will start going out from the NHS nationally next week to invite people in Cohort 7 (1.8m 60-64-year olds) to book a vaccination preferably at one of the mass centres. Again, you can wait to be called in to your local surgery if this does not work for you, but this is likely to take longer. It is therefore be the case that people in Cohort 7 will get their vaccinations before all those in Cohort 6 because Cohort 6 is such a large and complicated group, but this is to make sure the mass vaccination centres keep up their pace.
To be clear, no one is being forced to go to a mass centre like Brighton or Crawley and some people have complained that they live only 100 yards away from Lancing Parish Hall for example but have been told they have to go to Brighton. They have not been told to and they can wait for an invite from their local surgery. But if they can get to Brighton then it takes pressure off local GPs dealing with more problematic patients and often you can get a jab at Brighton on the same day. This really is the most effective way of getting as many jabs out as quickly as possible and the system is working very well and is based on the experience of the roll-out so far.
There is now a very good infrastructure in place to be able to scale up substantially as more vaccine becomes available in March meaning that we will all get jabbed sooner than was originally anticipated so everyone does not wait as long.
Three types of unpaid carers also fall into Cohort 6 and again will be encouraged to attend a mass vaccination centre to reduce the pressure on the GPs. Paid carers have already been offered a vaccination alongside NHS workers. Cohort 6 includes:
- Carers who are flagged up with their GP surgery
- Carers who are registered with the DWP for Carer’s Allowance
- Carers flagged up with the local council for carer assessments.
If you do not fall into one of these categories, you may not be prioritised in Cohort 6 although you may have informal caring responsibilities. Letters to carers will start going out from the NHS centrally from next week.
Similarly, there has been some confusion over which conditions will be deemed as high risk to qualify for Cohort 6. Only moderate and severe asthma patients subject to a certain level of treatment will qualify. Those using an inhaler to control mild asthma will not and there is evidence that a steroid inhaler helps protect against COVID. Again, these will be decisions that your GP will make which is why they are handling Cohort 6.
Most surgeries are now being given at least a 14-day timetable for delivery of vaccine which makes planning much easier. Supplies are expected to increase substantially in March with the third approved vaccine likely to come online late March/April. All 9 priority Cohorts of 32m people are well on track to be vaccinated by the end of April though at current rates it could be well before that. People vaccinated in December and January awaiting their booster second jab will start receiving a call-up from next week well within the 12-week cap and they should expect to be vaccinated at the same location they received their first and with the same brand of vaccine.
For those people still shielding locally 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'. Whilst the offer is available for everyone, the County Council is very focused on providing a range of support and practical assistance for the more than 35,000 Clinically Extremely Vulnerable residents across West Sussex who have now been advised to Shield and therefore not going shopping.
There has been a further large fall in patients at our local hospitals:
- Worthing Hospital is now looking after 32 COVID patients including 10 in ITU down from 72 and 13 last week. Sadly, there have been a further 14 deaths over last week.
- St Richard’s currently has 56 patients including 5 in ITU against 93 and 11 respectively last week with 29 further deaths.
- The Royal Sussex County is down to 52 including 20 in ITU from 98 and 34 last week, also with a further 29 deaths sadly.
Whilst numbers have fallen substantially and infection levels in the local community are now well back into double figures per 100,000 population, all our NHS services remain under pressure and we are very grateful for the considerable efforts all staff continue to put in.
Vaccinations – Local picture
Across Sussex the number vaccinated has just passed half a million. On Thursday alone 13,965 people were vaccinated which was around 2000 more people than had been planned with the mass vaccination centres now taking up a lot of the slack.
- The new mass vaccination centre at the Westgate Leisure Centre in Chichester went live on Thursday initially offering 500 jabs a day rising to 1000 by next Friday.
- The Brighton Centre is doing 1500 jabs a day but is not at full capacity and there are usually plenty of spare slots available the same day for those who have received a letter and can book quickly or are 65 or over and have not yet been able to get a vaccination.
In West Sussex:
- Over 80-year olds - 94.6% vaccinated
- 75-79-year olds - 94.3% vaccinated
- 70-74-year olds - 92.6% vaccinated
- 65-69-year olds - 56.4% vaccinated
- Clinically vulnerable - 90.3% vaccinated
These are very high figures and ahead of national averages though we are slightly behind on the 65-69-year-old Cohort 5 but that should be rectified this week.
- The CCG and Community Health Trust have recruited over 1000 people to help with administering vaccinations helped by St John Ambulance who have been running training programmes every weekend at the Amex Stadium. Please see my video on Facebook next week about an appeal to help St John’s Ambulance in Southwick raise funds.
- There was a temporary problem with the Brighton Centre on Thursday where the national computer booking system would not let people book a vaccination slot there. That had been rectified by the evening so try again if you had a problem.
- For those concerned that they are still getting called by their local surgery despite having booked in for a jab at one of the mass centres, the GP computer system will not be updated until 24-48 hours after you have physically revived your jab. That is the way the system works and also prevents you dropping off the system if you do not make your original appointment for example. The NHS are looking at ways of speeding up the technology further.
A message from the Lancing Parish Hall vaccination hub where I volunteered again on Wednesday: they are really grateful for all the kind donations of biscuits, cakes, chocolates and all sorts of other goodies that grateful people have been bringing in for the staff and volunteers. When I was there 8 boxes of shortbread alone arrived, which was lovely!
So, they are good for shortbread for a while but many of the volunteers really liked the sausage rolls which went very quickly. Just a hint!
Of course, this is not expected from everybody and the most welcome thing people have brought is a smile (behind a mask) and their appreciation for the amazing job everyone is doing.
Stay safe. We are getting there.