Plan for region's Covid vaccine rollout as thousands receive doses already

Thursday, December 31st, 2020 4:30pm

By Alice Richardson, Local Democracy Reporter @alice_rReach

A massive 35,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have already been distributed across Greater Manchester – and more are set to follow.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham gave a press conference this morning (Thursday) and announced the plan for the region’s vaccine distribution.

He said 12,000 of the vaccines already provided were given at hospital hubs and 23,000 via the region’s primary care network.

Mr Burnham said 25 per cent of Greater Manchester’s new coronavirus cases are attributable to the new strain of COVID-19, which is also spreading rapidly through London and the south east.

He said Greater Manchester leaders agreed with the government’s decision to place the region under the strict Tier 4 restrictions as a ‘preventative’ measure.

Mr Burnham said: “This is very much a preventative move and one that is supported, but we do believe that national arrangements would be more appropriate at this moment in time as that would strengthen the clarity of the message across the country.”

Mr Burnham welcomed the approval of the Oxford University-Astra Zeneca vaccine.

There are now 28 vaccination sites operational across the region, mostly in hospital sites and across the primary care network.

Mr Burnham said by Monday, all hospital sites in Greater Manchester will have vaccination sites operational.

By the end of January, there will be 55 vaccination sites across the area.

Mr Burnham added: “It’s really encouraging. We’re beginning to see progress being made and arrangements are well in hand in Greater Manchester to significantly increase the vaccination programme in the coming days.

“One issue identified is not so much availability of the vaccine or facilities, but the staffing of the sites when it comes to that wider implementation of the vaccination programme.”

To remedy this potential staff shortage, the mayor and other Greater Manchester leaders are putting out the call for staff – including those recently retired – to return to help with vaccine distribution.

He urged people to think about NHS workers ahead of New Year celebrations.

He said: “It’s a very selfish thing to do, to put extra strain on them when the NHS is on brink of the most challenging January it’s had, certainly in my memory. We need to focus on getting through these next two months. It will be challenging, perhaps the most challenging of this very difficult journey.

“But it’s very important that people don’t take the news of the vaccine that this is over. It isn’t. This is the moment of maxiumum danger and it’s critical that we follow the advice.”

Labour MP for Ashton-Under-Lyne Angela Rayner has estimated the up two million people a week will have to be vaccinated in order to achieve the government’s promise of lifting restrictions by spring.

Mr Burnham said: “We will be pulling out all of the stops to make that easing of restrictions achievable.

“There’s got to be a real focus to get as much of the vaccine out there as possible. I would gave a concern that this is not achievable without the staffing levels we need. That is a concern.

“We need to find those extra staffing resources. It would be that that would pose the risk, not availability of the vaccine, and that’s why we’re looking at making an appeal to recently retired staff to come and help distribute it.”

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