COVID update 23rd January 2021
I spent much of yesterday on Zoom calls with the Vaccines Minister and Chief Medical Officer staff, officials from the South-East region NHS and the Sussex CCG and Sussex Community NHS Trust. I have also been briefed by Worthing Hospital. So here is this week’s update on the state of COVID and the vaccine roll-out locally.
Sadly, there has been a high number of deaths from COVID at the local hospitals which all continue to be under extreme pressure. However, there are tentative signs that hospital admissions may be slowing reflecting the reported falls in infection rates across the South-East in particular. There are currently 123 COVID patients in Worthing Hospital including 20 in ITU. That is a fall on the 141 total I reported at the end of last week. The current figure of 132 in St Richards is slightly higher than last week, whilst in the Sussex County in Brighton the figure is down from 188 to 179 this week including 38 in ITU. As always thank you to all the staff who are working so hard for us all.
Across the South-East it is estimated that 83% of infections are down to the more virulent ‘Kent variant.’ Across our region it has been calculated that just over 8% of the population have antibodies suggesting they have had the infection, with or without symptoms. The highest region of the UK is Yorkshire and the Humber at 17%
Vaccinations – national/regional picture
- By the time you read this over 5.5m people in the top 4 priority groups across the UK should have received at least a first dose of the Pfizer or Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. That is more than 10% of the adult population We are currently delivering 285 jabs a minute through 1200 active sites. Friday 22nd January was a record day with over 400,000 vaccinations given.
- The logistics of distributing the vaccine is working very well with the help of the NHS, army and volunteers. At one-point last week the central distribution centre was down to its last 7 boxes of vaccine so it really is being sent out just as soon as it is received from the pharma companies which remains the main limiting factor on the roll-out. In England we are not leaving it on shelves unlike Wales where they seem to want to pace the roll-out for some reason.
- In the South-East 692,239 people had been vaccinated by the end of Thursday across 215 vaccine sites. Contrary to some media reports all regions of the UK are continuing to receive their fair share of the vaccine and it is not being diverted to other parts of the country. That ‘fair share’ is worked out on the basis of how many people in the priority categories there are in every area. Sussex has 517 care homes which is the highest number in the whole country, and we have an older population. That is why vaccination rates may appear higher in Sussex than say London with a much younger population and therefore fewer in the priority categories. In West Sussex we appear to be rolling out the vaccinations to more people and more efficiently than anywhere else in the South-East region.
- Nationally and locally we are on target to have vaccinated all the top 4 categories of people by the middle of February before surgeries move on to the under 70’s.
Vaccinations – local picture
- I have been keeping in contact with the local Primary Care Network hubs and spent a morning volunteering with the brilliantly organised Lancing Parish Hall hub last Wednesday. They are all doing a fantastic job and literally squeezing every last drop out of all the vaccine vials, calling up people to come in at short notice and making sure that virtually none has gone to waste. In some cases, because of the ‘lumpiness’ of supply of the vaccine some surgeries actually received double what they were expecting but have all successfully gone into overdrive and called lots of people to come in sooner than expected. One constituent told me that he had received a call yesterday and was able to turn up at his local surgery for a jab just 40 minutes later. Unlike some parts of the country we have not seen any interruption in supply requiring cancellations of appointments at the last minute.
- They are anticipating that all local adult care homes will have been vaccinated by the end of this weekend and are on course to vaccinate all over 80-year olds by the end of next week. Please be patient until then as the surgeries have long lists of people to go through. Most surgeries are initially ringing people in the top 4 groups to book them a slot. Obviously, some people have missed these calls for whatever reason, but they should receive follow up calls, or text messages or in some cases letters. If you have not received any communication by the end of next week and you think you may have been missed, then please email me and I will pass these details on, unless you have a direct email address for your surgery that you can use.
- As some surgeries have worked through their over 80’s list they are starting to contact some of the people in their 70’s in the next category whilst chasing up the over 80’s who have yet to respond. That is obviously much more sensible than waiting around for all the older patients to be vaccinated and causing a delay. That is why some people may be concerned that friends in their 70’s have been vaccinated but they have yet to be jabbed and are older.
- On Monday 25th January the first local mass vaccination centre at the Brighton Centre goes live. It will initially be offering 1500 jabs a day rising to 3000 by March. It will be open to everyone within a 45-minute drive of Brighton (so that includes Adur and Worthing theoretically notwithstanding traffic on the A27!) and slots can be booked by phone or online. Again, at this stage they will only be offering vaccinations to people in the top 4 categories and will be trying to clear as many of the NHS and care staff still to be vaccinated. Others over 80, and then over 70 will receive letters inviting them to book in at Brighton if they have not received a vaccination already at their local surgery. If you do not want to travel to Brighton you will still be able to get a jab locally but it may taken longer. Initially some people may receive an invitation both for the Brighton Centre and for their local surgery and there will be a slight lag with national NHS records getting updated but the choice of location is up to you. If you have already been jabbed, you can ignore the letter offering at slot at Brighton. If you have been jabbed at Brighton then tell your surgery if they ring to offer a slot with them.
- For those who need to drive to Brighton there will be free parking for 1 hour at the Churchill Square orange car park next door.
- People who are genuinely housebound will be offered a home visit and these are likely to start next week. The local Primary Care Networks are making arrangements for how best to deliver this and they will probably use the ‘roving teams’ who have been delivering vaccinations to care homes now that they have all been covered.
I will continue to update my website and Facebook page as often as possible and please do continue to look here for information first if you cannot find the information on your own surgery’s website or social media. As always please do avoid contacting your local surgery about vaccinations unless it is an absolute emergency as all their staff are tied up giving vaccinations or arranging them. And if you can, be prepared to respond at short notice to a call-up to receive your jab, maybe the same day.
Some people have queried why they have not received a vaccination card after their jab. I have posted separately on Facebook why this is not necessary and the card carried no official status but all local vaccination centres appear to be offering this now after the Lancing hub changed its policy, but that does mean extra work for them and added delay.
Some surgeries have very interactive social media sites where you can find more localised information. Doctor David Stokes of the St Lawrence surgery in Worthing has been producing some helpful podcasts for example which you can find here https://facebook.com/thedrfamily/
If you have a query that is not answered here or on my website, then do email me or there is a dedicated email box on the Sussex Community NHS Trust site www.sussexcommunity.nhs.uk