I have today had an hour-long discussion with the Senior Responsible officer and lead GP on the vaccination programme in Derbyshire, as well as separate discussions with the GP managing the Chesterfield vaccination programme and the DCHS lead and am able to update my constituents on many of the issues raised with regard to the vaccination programme.
The government are being very secretive about the numbers of people vaccinated locally and so although I am aware of those numbers, I am unable to share them. I always respect information given in confidence even if I don’t agree that it should be confidential.
The immediate government target is now that everyone over the age of 70, and everyone who is clinically vulnerable over the age of 18 should be vaccinated by 15th February 2021, in Derbyshire that is around 240,000.
The immediate first priorities are those in care homes and care home staff, those over 80 and those who work in NHS and Social care. Once those have been vaccinated they will turn to the 75-79 and then the 70-74 year olds.
Appointments will be booked by GP surgeries and people in Chesterfield will be asked to attend either the Winding Wheel or Walton hospital.
These centres will be operational from Wednesday 13th January 2021.
I am assured that Derbyshire is not, unlike some suggestions, currently ‘behind’ the majority of areas and indeed when it comes to care home residents, Derbyshire is ahead of the average.
However there are still the vast majority of the priority one cohort that haven’t been vaccinated yet and there are serious shortages of supply of the vaccine. The majority of vaccinations done so far are with the Pfizer vaccination which has considerable logistical issues due to the need for it to be in cold storage. Currently the Oxford/ AstraZeneca (OAZ) vaccine has been allocated for care home usage and I have been asked to identify if there is any flexibility in providing that to a wider cohort if enough become available but currently very small numbers of the OAZ vaccine has come through.
There are considerable reservations about the numbers coming through and I will be urgently contacting the Minister for COVID vaccine deployment to seek reassurance that the numbers of vaccines available will increase to allow the government’s targets to be realistic.
I am aware that other sites have been offered to the NHS but I am told that currently the biggest blockade is the supply of vaccines not the number of sites available. The CCG have the resources people and site wise to achieve the 240,000 target by 15th February if the vaccines turn up but the numbers that have arrived so far will leave them way short of that target so there is an urgent need to increase the numbers of vaccines coming through.
Originally, the vaccines were being ordered from NHS England on a ‘pull’ basis, meaning that the CCG would say how many they needed and where to. In late December this changed to a ‘push’ basis, meaning that the CCG get notified how many they can have and have to work around those numbers.
This is leaving them way short of the numbers required, and it is expected that numbers will increase over the course of this month.
The CCG investigated pharmacies being used but government required any pharmacies who wished to supply it to do so on a 7 day per week/ 12 hour a day basis which was not possible so currently there is no pharmacy provision in Derbyshire being utilised.
The conversation has left me with some questions that need to be asked of Health Ministers namely around vaccine supply and whether the OAZ vaccine can be used outside of the care home population in the event that it starts to come through in larger quantities.
I also had discussions with the CCG and DCHS around parking and access at Winding Wheel as much of the cohort is elderly and will have limited ability to walk. It is expected that most of the over 80 or frail population will be directed towards Walton Hospital, but I have ensured that Health bosses are speaking with Police about ensuring drop off access is available outside the Winding Wheel and will report back on that one.
With regard to other sites, the Government have set strict criteria and public transport access was one of the reasons why Winding Wheel was preferred to Chesterfield FC or other sites that to my mind had better parking.
I am continuing to push for a site in Staveley to be available and will update as soon as I hear more on that one.
It is clearly a very bureaucratic process with NHS England controlling much of it and moving sites or setting up new ones is not easy for local health bosses to achieve. NHS England are also keeping a tight grip on the number of sites and are clearly of the view that small number of larger sites is quicker and more efficient that a large number of small sites, although I reiterate the current restrictions are around vaccine supply not staff or sites.
There will, I have no doubt, be other questions that I haven’t asked that I am happy to go back and ask and I will be having weekly meetings with the team to ensure that I am kept aware of the progress in Chesterfield and any barriers that are preventing the team achieving the targets that government are claiming they will achieve.
If anyone has other questions, then email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will attempt to respond and publicise any significant questions that I haven’t answered here.
I will also be ensuring that Health Ministers are held to account for resolving the supply failures that currently threaten success and any other issues that are preventing us getting the most number of people vaccinated in the quickest possible time.