VACCINE UPDATE: ‘A way out of this misery’
Elderly and vulnerable patients have cried as they received Covid-19 jabs, with reports some are making their first trip out in nearly a year.
The emotional scenes have been reported at GP surgeries and other venues as Solihull’s vaccination programme is “rapidly ramped up”, with high-risk and priority groups invited for inoculations.
While an up-to-date figure on doses was not given at this week’s health and wellbeing board, Solihull’s network of Covid champions was told last week that as many as 20,000 shots had been provided borough-wide.
Paul Jennings, chief executive of Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said the capacity across the wider area had been boosted by the arrival of a mass-vaccination centre at Millennium Point
Having visited a number of facilities, he said the roll-out was “emotional” for many.
“It’s so profoundly exciting to think this is the way out of this misery we’ve been through,” he said.
“You see folks coming through, some of them really quite old, quite frail, people in wheelchairs…
“Some of them haven’t left the house since March and they’re coming out for their immunisation.
“There’s lots and lots of tears from staff as well as patients, it’s a very moving and rewarding thing.
“So although people are frankly some of them knackered to be working seven days a week, they’re still turning up and doing it because it’s so fantastic to be part of this massive programme that will get us out of this dreadful, dreadful situation we’ve now lived in for the last year or so.”
Cllr Karen Grinsell, who chaired the meeting, agreed many felt “special” when they received the invite from the NHS.
The government has targeted delivering at least one dose to the top four priority groups by mid-February, although much will depend on the continued delivery of supplies to providers.
“Realistically we could get to maybe 70,000 a week delivery locally when everything is in place and supply lines are working at full bandwidth and so on,” said Mr Jennings. “But it will take a while to get all of this going.”
He paid tribute to primary care teams who had taken on the roll-out when they were already “under the cosh.”
“They have been working flat-out since Christmas and some of them before Christmas, without a single day off, to make this work.”
In Solihull, operations are being overseen by a co-operative known as Solivac, which involves close working between primary care networks.
The roll-out, which started last month, is run through vaccination sites at Chelmsley Wood Primary Care Centre, Balsall Common Primary Care Centre, Richmond Road Medical Centre and Monkspath Surgery.
Although there are still challenges; the meeting touched upon work to confront “myths” – widespread on social media – which might make people reluctant to have the jab.
There are also discussions with faith leaders and others, following concern that some communities are far less likely to have the vaccine.
Cllr Ade Adeyemo, leader of Solihull’s Lib Dems, had this week urged people to accept it.
“The effect of Covid on ethnic minorities has been devastating, particularly on people who are of Black and South Asian descent.
“We have lost far too many friends and loved ones. Many continue to suffer from the effects of Long Covid.
“That is why I implore all Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority people to heed the advice of the medical community and protect ourselves from this nasty virus.”
Variations across different groups is likely to add to pressure on NHS England to provide a more detailed breakdown of uptake in local areas and help identify postcodes and demographics which seem to be falling behind.
Solihull Green Party has been critical of the fact communications have been “centralised” and fears a lack of transparency could undermine efforts to win over the sceptics.
Ruth Tennant, Solihull Council’s director of public health, said that the vaccine offered “light at the end of the tunnel”.
But residents are urged to keep following lockdown rules through what officials admit is the most dangerous point of the pandemic.
Data around whether vaccine stops transmission is still being compiled and at present only a fraction of the population has received two doses – which provides fuller protection to recipients.
More information on the Birmingham and Solihull programme is available at – https://www.birminghamandsolihullcovidvaccine.nhs.uk/
Helping hand from car giant:
Car giant Jaguar Land Rover has lent a fleet of vehicles to local GPs to help with the vaccine programme.
The firm this week confirmed it had offered assistance, with 10 Land Rover Defenders placed at the disposal of doctors and other healthcare staff.
They will bolster efforts from University Hospitals Birmingham, Solihull Council, Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
and general practices to run the operation.
Mr Jennings has said the 4x4s would help with “the smooth rollout of the vaccination programme across the patch.”
Last spring, when the first wave was breaking across the UK, JLR had previously lent vehicles to the Red Cross.
Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV