COVID VACCINE: Vaccine maps show main jabs divide
Covid vaccine maps showing uptake across Solihull reveal the most obvious dividing line that has now opened up – and which officials are desperate to close.
Images which colour the borough by take-up are noticeably different when looking at the adult population as a whole and then concentrating solely on the 18-24-year-old age bracket.
This is the group which has become a priority for the borough’s public health chiefs, given that only a very small proportion are fully vaccinated and rates that have been running so high in recent weeks.
Last week’s reopening of nightclubs and the end of most other legal restrictions adds to the urgency of getting doses delivered as soon as possible.
Solihull Council’s latest Covid summary also illustrates the significant drop-off in vaccination levels when comparing the oldest and youngest parts of the community.
Among the over 70s, more than 96 per cent have had at least one shot, falling to around 63 per cent among those in their 20s.
The disparity in double-vaccinations is even more stark, with more than 95 per cent of those over 70 having had both doses, compared with around 23 per cent of 20-somethings.
Although this second stat will be heavily skewed by the fact that most young people will not yet have been able to get a second injection – given the need to wait eight weeks between doses.
More worrying for health teams will be that a sizeable minority are still to accept their first dose – despite every adult being eligible since mid-June.
The vaccine maps and tables also show that there continues to be some variation in take-up between different parts of the borough – even in the older age-groups
While 98 per cent of over 70s in Dorridge & Hockley Heath are fully protected, this drops to 93 per cent in Kingshurst & Fordbridge.
Although the divide between neighbourhoods, while large enough to be noticeable on the heat map, is nowhere near as stark as between – for example – inner-city Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield.
And it appears to be age rather than location which is the key focus of the most recent local messaging.
The continued vaccine push has been made all the more urgent by this month’s explosion in cases and increasing alarm from within the region’s hospitals – with an SOS issued in relation to the Queen Elizabeth last week.
In Solihull, the recent wave has easily exceeded the previous peak at the start of the year and rates have been described as “staggering” by council leader Ian Courts.
In his latest Covid update, Cllr Court said: “This third wave of infection is, in the main, affecting children and young people, but it is also catching out those who have not had their vaccines.
“Hospitals are reporting cases of very sick people in their late 20s and 30s.
“Vaccines are vital, so please get both of your jabs, but even more importantly, keep doing the right thing to avoid transmission of this invisible virus.”
The latest weekly summary, published on Friday afternoon, gives a case rate of 895.2 per 100,000 in the seven days to July 17.
Although a slight lag in data means this doesn’t capture the drop in cases which has been evident nationwide in recent days.
A more up-to-date seven day rate, which went up to July 21, suggests this may have started to be reflected in the borough’s figures as well.
Scientists are watching closely to see whether this trend will continue, given that previous models had suggested the rise would continue into August.
Much could depend on if the final stage of unlocking last Monday (July 19) gives fresh momentum to the virus or whether any effects will be dampened by the recent break-up of schools.
Why are young people less likely to get jabbed?
Since the start of the vaccine programme there has been concern that it would be harder to encourage younger people to get their Covid jabs.
Given that population-wide protection needs to extend as far as possible in order to meet the much-discussed “herd immunity” threshold, a campaign to encourage take-up has been running at full pelt in both Solihull and UK-wide.
The biggest obstacle is thought to be that some of the young and healthy don’t see Covid-19 as such a risk to them.
And it’s certainly true that the likelihood of serious sickness is so much higher among those who are elderly or suffering underlying health problems.
But Solihull’s public health team has pushed back against the idea that younger people are impervious, pointing out under 30s have needed hospital treatment in this latest wave.
There is also the threat of Long-Covid, where symptoms can drag on for months even amongst those who had a relatively mild illness initially.
Health chiefs had suggested earlier in the year it could also prove harder to get young people to fit vaccine appointments around work and busy social lives.
To some extent the NHS had a captive audience at the start of the year, given that a full lockdown was in force and so many venues were shut-up.
One other factor that could impact on vaccine rates – at least in the short-term – is the fact the virus is already running rampant in those sections of the community currently being called.
Many are being ordered to self-isolate, in some cases missing appointments, while those who have recently recovered will have to wait 28 days after their infection before they are eligible for a jab.
Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter
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