“We want vaccinating.” Those are not the exact words used by many callers over the last few days, but they express the common sentiment. Expectation has reached a high point with yesterday’s approval of the easier to administer Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. We have two vaccines, millions of doses, but here in south west Shropshire we still don’t know when vaccination will begin in earnest.
Local GPs are frustrated. They are ready to go. They will begin in care homes this Sunday if needed. Their switchboards are busy with callers asking when their vaccination will be available. They don’t have an answer because health service managers don’t seem to be up to speed on vaccination rollout.
The virus didn’t take a holiday at Christmas. It won’t take a holiday at New Year. It will spread faster threatening the lives and health of people in our area of Shropshire. We need action. All we have got from the Clinical Commissioning Group is inaction.
Please don’t ring your local NHS practice about vaccination. When your vaccination is available you will get a letter, call or text. Only ring your GP if you need an appointment or that is the normal way you order medication. Otherwise ring 111. If you have Covid-19 symptoms and need a test, ring 119 or book online at NHS.uk/get-coronavirus-test. Health advice is available online at 111.nhs.uk. There is also advice and, once registered, you can order repeat medication at patientaccess.com.
I have received several phone calls and emails from people over eighty asking when they are likely to get vaccinated. They are ready for it and are ringing our GPs. Reception staff don’t know the answer to their question and neither do the GPs. That’s frustrating given that the rollout of vaccination has been long planned. I am not blaming local GPs. Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group is silent. Shropshire Council which holds the portfolio for public health has said nothing about vaccination in rural areas like ours.
This dearth of information is damaging confidence in management of public health in Shropshire.
The Clinical Commissioning Group seems to be reluctant to press the go button on vaccination for the rural south west of Shropshire. Local health professionals who will administer the vaccine are privately venting their frustration. They are ready to go.
One local GP told me that the start of vaccination could be as late as 18 January. That more than two weeks ahead. Two weeks in which the new variant will exploit the lack of action and spread illness.
Another GP told me today that vaccination in care homes in Ludlow could begin this Sunday if the Clinical Commissioning Group would give its approval. But the CCG will not act.
Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East is a practising nurse in Ludlow:
“Care homes have staff ready and waiting to assist in vaccination programme. We have GPs trained to administer the vaccine. Administrative staff and nurses are ready to assist. Extra staff can be brought in if needed.
“There appears to be no reason that we cannot start vaccinating people in south west Shropshire right now.
Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group has said it must analyse data from the pilot scheme in Bridgnorth before anything else can happen. Its study should have been done by now. People’s lives are at risk. We need to start vaccinating now.
“We are ready. Why is the CCG not ready?”
This is a virus that didn’t stop for Christmas. The chances are it gained further ground. We won’t know what the social distancing relaxation over the festive break (legal and illegal) has had on infection rates until next week or the week after. But this is a nasty virus that will exploit any increase in sociability. The new variant of Covid-19 spreads more than 50% quicker than the virus we were introduced to in March. It is the Ghost of Christmas Future than will haunt us throughout 2021 unless we get on with the job of testing and vaccinating. Everywhere. Now.
Covid-19 is not the NHS’s virus. It is everyone’s virus. The vaccines are not owned by the government. They are our vaccines. But it is the government’s bureaucracy and the fragmented and indecisive decision-making in the NHS nationally and locally that is holding up vaccination here and across the county. Probably also across the country.
We need an end to the terror of Covid-19. We need an end to the growing deaths and physical illness. We need an end to the acceleration of mental health problems. We need an end to the social and economic havoc coronavirus is causing.
That end won’t come through tier restrictions and lockdowns. They hold back the increase in infection rates for a while and ease the pressure on health services. The only way the terror of Covid-19 will end is through mass vaccination. Quick vaccination.
The CCG should act and should act today.
Vaccination! When do we want it? Now! When do we need it? Now!