Covid vaccinations ramped up in Northumberland - but residents urged to stay patient with supply issues in April

Northumberland residents are being urged to remain patient in waiting for their Covid-19 vaccination.

By Ian Smith
Friday, 19th March 2021, 7:00 am

The county has among the highest vaccination rates in the country with 122,105 first doses delivered (45% of the eligible population) up to the week ending March 16.

Richard Hay, head of planning and operations at NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Being patient is going to be ever more important, especially with the supply constraints going forward.

Retired doctor Jimmy Mitchell gets his Covid-19 vaccine in Berwick.

"It’s an unfortunate message to have to share with people because just a couple of weeks ago we were saying that supply was increasing and we hoped to be able to offer it to more people but that, I suppose, is the nature of a global vaccination programme.

"Our teams across Northumberland will get to them as quickly as they possibly can.”

Before then, Northumberland CCG is in its two biggest weeks in the whole vaccination programme with about 21,000 doses being delivered this week and about 23,000 doses next week. Some 72% of those are second doses.

Second doses started at the beginning of March and, to date, 5,200 have been delivered.

“That’s going to be the challenge moving forward with the supply constraints,” said Richard.

“The priority is absolutely going to have to be giving second doses to those people already vaccinated in the most vulnerable groups.

"Unfortunately the trade off is that it will mean a reduction in the capacity we’ve got available to deliver new first doses."

Of those vaccinations delivered, 76,500 have been to those over the age of 65.

"Northumberland is the leading local authority area in the North East at the moment for percentage of population immunised,” said Richard. “We’re in the top one-third of local authorities in the country.”

Nationally, everyone over the age of 50 (cohort nine) is being invited to book an appointment with the Government’s aim for all nine cohorts to be given a jab by April 15.

"In Northumberland, what we’re currently doing in primary care and GP hubs, is working through cohorts five and six as a priority and are just starting to go into cohorts seven (over 60s) and eight (over 55s),” said Richard. "We’re doing it strictly on priority order, calling people in on age first, underlying health conditions and then moving down into the lower cohorts.”

Measures are in place to make the rollout as fair as possible, no easy feat given the county’s size and rural population.

"We’ve really been quite innovative in Northumberland and have a countywide vaccination plan that we discuss with all our primary care networks,” he explained.

"We look at the allocation across the county to make sure it’s as fair as possible. We do that by looking at the numbers of patients in each of the cohorts and then each week we get an idea of what our allocation for the county looks like and we work with the primary care networks to allocate that as fairly as possible based on the number of second doses they need to do and then where the capacity needs to be for additional first doses.”

He also stressed the continued importance of the ‘hands, face, space’ message to keep transmission rates down.

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