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Public health chief calls for surge vaccinations in Covid-19 hotspot areas

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021 3:15pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Give us the ability to surge vaccinations in Covid-19 hotspot areas, says the man leading Derbyshire's pandemic response.

Dean Wallace, Derbyshire County Council’s public health director, says the move would be a hugely useful tool for him and his colleagues.

He does, however, note that there could be shortcomings from the change, which would pull vaccines from other areas of the county and city.

Mr Wallace’s public health counterparts in the North West have been crying out for surge vaccination abilities in areas where there are Covid outbreaks.

These calls were eventually answered in Blackburn, with health chiefs calling on all adults aged 18 and over to book a vaccination, with new pop-up sites set up to help meet the surge in demand.

Surge vaccinations were also rolled out in Bolton, with 6,200 people receiving a jab in a makeshift mass vaccination site last weekend.

Mr Wallace told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Having the ability to direct local capacity to vaccinate would be useful.

“This could be directed at populations with higher rates of Covid and people who have a higher risk profile.

“It could potentially slow the vaccine roll-out and it would all have to be considered carefully and thoroughly.

“It would possibly be even more useful in the winter when we may have small outbreaks.

“To have the ability to respond with surge vaccinations, on top of test and trace would allow a more rapid health response and would help keep the community open and keep businesses, so the economy, open.”

Mr Wallace clarified that the decision to surge vaccinations in outbreak areas would be made and discussed in cooperation with other health leaders in the county and city.

Aside from this, Mr Wallace says the authority still needs a quicker “throughput” of data to help officials respond at pace and with as much information as possible.

He says that local government has invested heavily, supported by central government grants, and that this support will need to be continued long-term so that the county council can continue its Covid response, and all of its other public health responsibilities.

Mr Wallace says public health officials need to be able to plan long term so it is not always having to “react” to issues as they crop up.

The Department for Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.

A spokesperson directed us to Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s statement in Parliament on Monday (May 17), in which he said: “The approach is to make sure that we get done as many second vaccinations as possible, as many first vaccinations as possible among the vulnerable groups, and then as many vaccinations as possible among those aged under 50 in the eligible groups.

“We have taken that approach because that is what is likely to save most lives. That second jab is vital. The first jab for anybody over 50 could mean the difference between life and death.

“The very strong focus is to get the vaccine to all those over 50 who have not yet taken the first jab. I am glad to say that reports from both Bolton and Blackburn suggest that uptake among people who are eligible, but who have not yet taken the jab, has increased since we saw the rise of the B1617.2 (Indian) variant in those areas.

“It is effective in proving to people that the jab really does work to protect them. That is what the data shows.”

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