Northumberland health chiefs warn of 'real shortage' of vital Covid vaccines amid growing fears around Pirola strain
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The highly mutated new Covid strain, known as Pirola, has seen case numbers in the UK spike and prompted the Government to bring forward autumn jabs.
There are fears the variant, which is a strain of Omicron, could evade immunity and vaccines more easily due to 34 new mutations.
Symptoms of the new variant include a runny nose, headaches, fatigue, sneezing and a sore throat as well as diarrhoea, eye irritation and rashes.
Speaking at Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board, public health consultant Dr Jim Brown outlined the steps being taken.
He said: “We have seen a new variant that has seen the number of new cases go up. There is some possibility that it is evading our immunity and vaccination, so we have brought forward our vaccination programme to this week.”
Dr Alistair Blair, executive medical director of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, warned the country was facing a coronavirus vaccine shortage.
He said: “We’ve had about 7,000 Covid vaccinations in Northumberland as part of the accelerated programme, but there is now a real shortage of vaccinations. Appointments are having to be cancelled.
“This is not just a local issue, it’s a real issue and it is something that I know local primary care feel very sad about. This is where nobody wants to be.”
A spokeswoman for Northumberland and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board said: “What we’re trying to establish at the moment from an ICB point of view is a really clear mapping of what clinics are happening when, and how many patients are booked in in order to establish what vaccine we need when in the short term and in order to not have to cancel clinics.
“We are on top of that and that’s what we’re working through in the next couple of days to try and prevent us from cancelling clinics. That’s something we don’t want to do and it’s a last resort.
“Hopefully it is not a cancellation, it is a postponement. There’s vaccinations coming into the system all the time.
“We want care homes covered by the end of October. We’ve got a few weeks to do that.”