Covid vaccine blackspots where over-80s still waiting for jab – find out where
Vaccine blackspots just a few miles from the epicentre of the new coronavirus variant have seen virtually no-one offered a jab.
More than a month after rollout over-80s in parts of the country are still waiting for invites while under-70s elsewhere get the jab.
The town of Sandwich in Kent was a major base for US vaccine manufacturer Pfizer for more than 50 years but has seen not a single resident get an invite.
Despite more than four million people getting a first dose, lack of vaccinations have also been reported in parts of Shropshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Suffolk and West Sussex.
Kent was where the more contagious UK variant originated and has been one of the worst hit counties.
Folkestone has the highest coronavirus death rate in Britain but “practical issues” meant it was only due to start offering vaccines this week.
The area has seen 300 deaths since the start of the pandemic at a rate of 265.5 per 100,000 people – comfortably the worst in the UK.
“Pfizer town” Sandwich – with a population of 5,000 mainly elderly residents – is not expecting see any residents invited to be vaccinated until the end of the week, according to the local Tory MP.
The postcode lottery can be revealed after Matt Hancock hailed Slough for joining Newcastle in having got a first dose to all elderly care home residents.
The Health Secretary heralded passing the four million vaccinations milestone on Monday, saying more than half of over-80s and care home residents had now had a first dose.
Rates vary with nearly 700,000 having had their first jab in the Midlands compared to 367,000 in London.
The Government is reportedly considering diverting supplies to areas falling behind on jabs, but residents complain the distance to local vaccination sites is a problem.
Sandwich residents as well as those from nearby Deal, Walmer and surrounding villages are expected to make up to a 30 mile round trip to a GP-led vaccination clinic in Dover.
They are less than 10 miles from the where rates of the new variant peaked for much of the second wave in Thanet.
Pfizer has had its Covid-19 vaccine administered in the UK since December 7.
The pharmaceutical giant was first established in Sandwich 66 years ago during the Second World War with the production of penicillin.
Despite downsizing its operation in the town in 2011, it still runs its research and development site there.
Sandwich resident Richard Barry told the Mirror: “Is the priority now simply to vaccinate increasing numbers, but not to prioritise need?
“In Sandwich it certainly feels that way. There is real anxiety amongst the hundreds of people who are extremely elderly and frail.
“The Pfizer estate is enormous since Pfizer down sized and would make a great vaccination centre with huge empty modern buildings.”
Sandwich residents have now launched an online petition demanding they are no longer left behind in the vaccine race.
Tory MP for South Thanet demanded a vaccination centre to be introduced in east Kent in a message to constituents on Monday.
He said: “To say I am annoyed with the various bodies responsible would be an understatement and I have spent the entire weekend working with local MP colleagues, badgering ministers and NHS officials to get a better picture of the local vaccination plan.”
Mr Barry, 65, added: “There is no advice as to how vulnerable elderly patients are supposed to get to Dover other than on public transport with all the risks that involves especially for the old and frail who have up until now been self isolating.
“Then there is the danger of thousands of people from so many areas converging on just one surgery raising fears of inoculations becoming super spreader events.”
Fewer people are being vaccinated over weekend despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson promising a rapid seven-day mobilisation.
Around 100,000 fewer people got jabs on Sunday than they did on Friday.
One mass vaccination centre at Newbury Racecourse is cancelling all jabs today(Wed) so race day can go ahead.
Horse racing is allowed to continue under lockdown rules because it is considered an elite sport.
Overall almost 7% of England had received a jab by yesterday. This was closer to 5% in Wales and Scotland.
London is lagging most other English regions in England with a rate of just 4.3%.
NHS England data showed rates to get a dose were 7.6% in the South West, 7.4% in the North East and Yorkshire, 7.2% in the North West, 6.8% in the South East, 6.7% in the Midlands and 6% in eastern England.
Along with NHS and care staff, over-80s and care home residents are part of an initial priority group covering 6.7 million people.
Another 5.6 million people in their seventies and younger clinically extremely vulnerable patients became eligible on Monday.
The Government said medics should decide whether or not to start vaccinating over-70s if they still had over-80s in their area not yet given a dose.
Some vaccine centres are being told that they will not be getting further supplies because they are ahead of other areas.
The Welsh government said the country could receive a larger share of UK vaccine doses because it has an older population.
First Minister Mark Drakeford told the Welsh Parliament that “actions are being taken” by the UK Government to take into account the country’s higher median age.
It comes as areas such as Cockermouth in Cumbria, Yateley in Hampshire and parts of the Cotswolds have vaccinated almost all of their over-80s.
Dr Zoe Norris said it was taking a huge amount of time to contact patients directly about being vaccinated.
The GP, from East Yorkshire, told BBC breakfast: “What we have done is initially we are ringing our patients who are in the first couple of groups so you can imagine it takes a huge amount of time, you’re talking 1,000 patients at least for one batch of vaccine.
“So ringing those patients, making sure they know where to go, they have got people to bring them down if they are elderly and frail.”
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