12,000 covid vaccinations given to Northumberland residents - but frustrations voiced over supply

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccineA dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
Around 12,000 Northumberland residents have received Covid-19 vaccinations so far, but there are frustrations about the consistency of supply.

This represents around 3.75% of the population and includes 766 residents across 28 care homes – an area of concern at a time when there are 13 active outbreaks in county facilities, resulting in 64 staff and 94 residents testing positive, with 14 deaths so far.

The vaccination process has been led by primary care networks (PCNs) – groups of GP practices working together for the benefit of patients through economies of scale and to deliver additional services.

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There are six in Northumberland – Well Up North; West; Wansbeck; Blyth; Cramlington and Seaton Valley; and Valens (based on the existing partnership covering the Morpeth, Ashington and Cramlington areas).

The Wednesday, January 6, full meeting of the county council heard that the four PCNs in the central and south-east areas were in waves one to three and have had two deliveries so far, while those covering the north and west were in wave four and have had one delivery.

All wave three and four sites were due to get a 975-dose delivery of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, January 6, and a 400-dose delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday, January 8.

Wave one and two sites have scheduled deliveries of what were to be second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, but they are now advised to use these as first doses following changes to the Government guidance about the gap between first and second doses.

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Cllr Steven Bridgett, the ward member for Rothbury, raised concerns about the consistency of vaccine delivery, particularly in relation to his own area whose patients will be accessing the Alnwick hub.

Northumberland’s director of public health, Liz Morgan, responded to say she ‘shares your frustration about regular and consistent supply’, adding that the issue of deliveries being scheduled and not turning up is ‘not unique to Northumberland or the North East’.

“I think over a period of time the consistency of supply will get better,” she added. “But at the moment, it is hugely frustrating because primary care has put a huge amount of time and effort into scheduling patients to come in for their vaccination.

“I think once production gets up and running, supplies should become more consistent.”

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There are no hospital hubs delivering vaccines as yet in Northumberland, but Wansbeck and the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington have now been approved and are expecting a delivery on Monday, January 11.

In response to another question, from Cllr Jeff Watson, she confirmed that those who have been vaccinated must still follow all the guidelines, because although the vaccine reduces the risk of becoming infected and seriously ill, it is not known if it reduces transmission to others – as this was not part of the clinical trials.

Ms Morgan began her update by highlighting that the case rates and number of cases in Northumberland doubled from December 15 to January 3.

In terms of different age groups, cases in under 15s dropped by 25% between the end of the school term and the end of the year, but they doubled or almost doubled in all other age groups, with the main concern being the doubling in the over 65s, who are most likely to be badly affected by the disease.

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