I am pleased to start this week’s Personally Speaking with some good news. Thanks to the incredible efforts of our local health workers we saw the 100,000th vaccine delivered in Staffordshire on Friday. Well over 5 million vaccines have now been delivered across the UK, a number increasing by 2-300,000 every single day. Thanks to the incredible combined efforts of the NHS, the UK Government’s National Vaccines taskforce, local GPs, nurses and volunteers; we have vaccinated more people than anywhere else in Europe.
Today we see the mass our first mass vaccination centre goes live in Tunstall. Across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire every GP network now has a live local vaccination centre. This is as well as six local pharmacies and our hospital hubs including at the Royal Stoke now delivering vaccinations.
This puts us on schedule to meet our aim of vaccinating everyone in the top 4 priority tiers, the most vulnerable people in society to the virus. These are the over-70’s, care home residents and frontline medical and social care staff. These are the people who are either at the most risk personally of becoming seriously ill should they catch COVID, or who are at the most risk of being exposed and spreading it to the most vulnerable.
Locally those at greatest risk, over 80s and care home residents have been prioritised first but with the continued ramping up of vaccinations all those in the top 4 priority tiers will soon be contacted to get their jab. If you haven’t been contacted yet and are in one of the top priority groups, don’t worry you will be contacted in the very near future.
By the end of this month three vaccines; Moderna, Pfizer, and Oxford/Astrazenca are approved for use, making the UK the first country in the world to have three approved Coronavirus vaccines. Each one of these has been rigorously tested and has been through the same trials as every other vaccine and medication in use today. They are safe to use, and I strongly encourage everyone to accept the jab when they are offered it.
We have seen some disgraceful attempts by anti-vaxxers to spread their lies. I cannot emphasise enough - the vaccine is safe, tested, and effective. Please trust our NHS and medical experts to give you the right treatment. I know most sensible people can’t wait to get their vaccine and only a tiny number of people across Staffordshire have refused a jab.
As the Prime Minister has said, once the most vulnerable are vaccinated and the lockdown has succeeded in further reducing the spread of the virus, we shall be able to look at re-opening the country in limited ways, starting with schools. Headteachers, teachers, support staff, and pupils have been going above and beyond to ensure learning can continue for many children remotely from home.
However, no matter how good remote education is, nothing beats children being in school and as we know from the first lockdown unfortunately many will have to catch-up significantly. The impacts on families of balancing all the current challenges both physically and mentally are huge. The sooner we get schools fully back open to all children the better; engaging with the vaccine programme makes it so much easier to do so.
Thanks to the combined efforts of everyone locally sticking with the lockdown and Government guidance, COVID cases in Stoke-on-Trent have thankfully continued a downward trend over the last few days. This of course isn’t an excuse to let down our guard, but it’s proof our efforts are working and that we can continue to control the virus by staying at home, social distancing, wearing masks, and washing our hands. It’s worth remembering why we’re doing this, too. We need to control the virus while the vaccine roll-out continues, protecting the most vulnerable, ensuring our NHS is not totally overwhelmed and saving lives.
To round off this week’s message I can only re-emphasise the most important point I will make all year. The vaccine saves lives and offers a route of hope out of lockdowns and tier systems. I will continue to work with the National Vaccines taskforce and push Ministers to ensure increased numbers of doses of the vaccine will come to Stoke-on-Trent, so we can continue to ramp up the vaccine roll-out.
Originally published in The Sentinel 25 January 2021.
Priority groups for coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination: advice from the JCVI here.