There was quite a storm this week when it became clear that links- supposed to be used by key workers had been passed around on private and public social media channels and were allowing people who were not yet entitled to book a Coronavirus vaccine.
With vaccines in such short supply, it understandably led to widespread alarm and anger. I took this up with our local PCN who are working day and night to vaccinate as many people as possible and went down to the Winding Wheel on Tuesday to witness the major operation they have running there.
The site is very professional and efficient but it became clear that people had slipped through the net and there was also significant media interest in SwiftQ, the IT firm responsible for the booking software.
The Primary care network are doing all they can to book in and vaccinate as many people as possible and steps taken to police this do diminish from their relentless focus on that task, but the system must enjoy public confidence if people are going to continue to wait patiently in line. Therefore, I welcome the further steps that they are putting in place to reduce the number of people booking appointments without being entitled and am also assured that there will be much stricter policing on site to ensure that people who are able to get an appointment will be prevented from getting vaccinated ahead of their turn.
I also hear concerns from some older people and their family members that a computerised booking system that requires a smart phone or a laptop is not ideal for our over 80s population and I share that view. I have spoken to SwiftQ about what technological solutions exist to tighten up who gets the appointments and the Primary care network have also taken steps to reduce the sharing of these links too, but the overriding message is that booking a COVID vaccine should only be done if you have been asked to by your GP or as a key worker by your employer. Taking up a vaccine slot prevents vulnerable people from getting their vaccine, wastes precious vaccinations and you will not get a vaccine yourself now.
I would also like to place on record my thanks to all those, both volunteers and paid staff, who are working so hard to ensure this programme vaccinates Chesterfield people as quickly as possible. I have to say I am disappointed that NHS England have failed to keep their side of the bargain in some regards and I am pursuing those issues on behalf of our local team. It is also concerning that vaccine supply is still variable and insufficient. The Winding wheel centre will be closed for four days next week because at this moment there is only enough vaccines for three days of operation.
The Vaccine deployment Minister tells us that he has a ‘line of sight’ towards the numbers of vaccines required that will enable the government’s 15th February target to be met for all over 70s, and I will keep badgering to ensure that Chesterfield gets it’s fair share.
Finally, the first vaccinations of over 80s in Staveley will take place this week at Inkersall GP surgery and there will be over 80s vaccines taking place at Wheatbridge as well as the Casa Hotel/ Peak Pharmacy set up which begins in February. If there is sufficient vaccines I am told that we can continue to ramp up the application of vaccines, but we just need those vaccination factories to come through.