A lot of people have asked questions about local vaccine supply and who we are prioritising. Anne-Marie's statement on that is below:
First, I want to praise the incredible efforts of our local teams of GPs, nurses, healthcare assistants, support staff and volunteers who have been working so hard to rollout this mass vaccination programme.
As a nation, we are now vaccinating 2 million people per week and are on track to reach our target of vaccinating the most vulnerable by mid-February.
At present, the only limiting factor is the supply of the vaccine, and I know those who are working so hard to manufacture these vaccines are working flat out to increase supply.
The priority order for receiving the vaccines was determined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) who have determined that care home residents and their carers are the top priority group, closely followed by the over 80s and frontline health and social care workers. You can read more about why they have decided on those priority groups HERE, but I think most people would agree with that determination.
Here in Northumberland, we have a smaller population than other areas, and our teams have done an incredible job at getting our priority groups vaccinated, in fact I believe over 70% of the over 80s in our primary care network have received their first dose of the vaccine, which is excellent. Our area has delivered the most vaccines to priority groups of anywhere else in England, which is amazing! However, we need to remember the NHS is a national service. The decision to prioritise those most at risk of covid is a national decision to be delivered across the entire nation equally and fairly. It would not be right to prioritise the supply of vaccines to over 70s in Northumberland instead of over 80s elsewhere.
We do not want the delivery of this life-saving vaccine to be a postcode lottery. Certainly, if Northumberland were lagging behind with vaccinating our over 80s, and vaccine supplies were being prioritised to other areas so they could vaccinate lower priority groups, there would be outrage and rightly so.
Care home residents and over 80s are the top priority, and we have to prioritise vaccinating them, wherever in the country they may be (they are not conveniently distributed evenly across each area). Northumberland continues to receive a good supply of vaccines, and we continue to work through our lists. Supply is increasing all the time, and everyone in those top priority groups is on course to receive their vaccine by mid-February, but we must ensure those over 80s and care home residents receive theirs first, as they are the most at risk.