What nonsense we were told at Shropshire Council yesterday. Tracey Huffer and I had asked a detailed question on testing for Covid-19 and this had been answered. Our supplementary question asked what the arrangements were for a vaccination centre in south west Shropshire. Tracey led and we could not believe the answer from Councillor Dean Carroll, the portfolio holder for heath. In summary, no hope of a centre for the current vaccine. We will have to wait for the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. Which is not yet approved.
As soon as council finished, we got in touch with medical professionals. Councillor Carroll was talking utter rubbish. An announcement on vaccination centre in south west Shropshire will be made early next week. And it will be in place quickly.
When we ask questions at a council meeting, we expect an accurate answer from the portfolio holder. Sometimes that is not possible because of the complex nature of the question and we get an answer emailed later. Either way, it is an answer on the record that we can use and comment on. Prior notice of this supplementary question had been given to officers, which is unusual but we wanted an accurate answer.
But Councillor Dean Carroll clearly doesn’t know what is happening. Discussions are well advanced for a vaccination centre serving the south west. We know this from the lead of the Primary Care Network South West [Shropshire]. She also sits on the Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group.
The reasons given by Councillor Dean Carroll were nonsense. As head of the health portfolio he will know, or should know, that extensive consultations have taken place over a site in the Ludlow area. He should know that this needs to be a specialist outfit because of the specific transport requirements of the first vaccine. Seriously cold temperatures. Limited handling imposed by the licence conditions. It can’t just be broken up into small amounts and passed around like beer bottles from a crate. That means big throughput for the vaccination sites. The local vax sites we have used for flu can vaccinate up to 1,000 people a day. The arrangements for the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine are not as straightforward and the through rate is around 300 patients a day.
That’s not a problem. It’s a scaling issue and the resources are there. Locally and nationally.
What is not there is the political will of the Portfolio Holder for Health on Shropshire Council, Dean Carrol. He seems content that we can wait months for the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to come on stream. That vaccine may not be approved. In the next few weeks. Months. Ever.
Councillor Carroll made much of the need for security. He said sites can’t be announced now because organised crime will target them. That doesn’t mean the principal of a vaccination site can’t be announced. After all, there are around 1,000 square kilometres in south west Shropshire.
We hope never to hear such a deceptive reply in council again.
Transcript of question and reply
Tracey Huffer, Councillor for Ludlow East. I have a question on behalf of Councillor Andy Boddington and myself. My supplementary question is, as we learn today that we will stay in Tier 2, what are the plans for a Covid vaccination centre in south west Shropshire?
Dean Carroll, Portfolio holder for Adult Social Services and Climate Change. In terms of vaccination centres, a great deal depends what the vaccine will be at any given time. For example, the Pfizer vaccine that is currently being rolled out has very exacting and very strict storage and transportation requirements. So, in terms of that specific vaccine, that would be very unlikely to find a suitable venue from the south west of Shropshire. However, with the AstraZeneca vaccine on the other hand, which is far more akin in storage and delivery modes to the annual flu vaccine, there are absolutely abilities and we have identified sites across the county, including in the south west of Shropshire that could be used for the delivery of that vaccine. When and if, hopefully when, that gets approval. I just need to caveat that with, given the national concerns, around vaccines as potential target for organised crime, high security measures have been put around the national vaccine rollout. Though the specific sites that we have been liaising on with our NHS colleagues have to be kept confidential for the time being until security can be put in place. I think that answers your question.