Vaccinations are now happening at pace in Suffolk Coastal. All residents in care homes have received their first vaccination. At time of writing, the largest CCG for Suffolk has reported to me that two thirds of over 80 year olds have had their first vaccination. This is thanks to the hard work of our nurses and doctors, the surgery staff and also many volunteers. It has been a huge effort across the country and one of which we should be immensely proud.
I had raised concerns on behalf of constituents early last week when it was clear that the cohort priority was not being followed unanimously, as on the first day of vaccinations in at least one of the centres, people in the 70+ cohort were being vaccinated while many in the 80+ cohort were still waiting for an appointment. As an MP, I think it right to let the NHS get on with the programme but I also have to hold them to account, which I have done. I am pleased that we saw a rapid response and I was assured later that day that letters and text messages had gone out in those areas inviting the over 80s cohort for an appointment. If any constituents have still not been contacted, please do contact me in Parliament.
What was not clear initially is how the vaccination process was being rolled out and understandable confusion about why different parts of the constituency, saw rapid progress or no progress. Every GP practice is linked to a primary care network and will have discussed and decided on how best to deploy the vaccines for the patients on their list. That is why we are seeing different responses for neighbouring areas. That will be for a variety of reasons including the nature and handling of the vaccine itself not making it as straightforward as the annual flu jab process. Some practices have gone with a more centralised hub approach – as run by the Suffolk GP Federation, the Suffolk Primary Care Partnership and the South Waveney grouping. The GP practices in Leiston and Saxmundham decided to undertake this role themselves for their patients. I know it needed a near-military effort and I want to praise them and their staff for making it happen. I particularly want to thank the Leiston practice for agreeing to take on vaccination for people in the nearby Aldeburgh area, to avoid those patients needing to travel to the Woodbridge hub. We are a rural area and I know how much that will be appreciated. When we get more of the OxfordAstraZeneca vaccine, this may simplify further how the vaccinations can be done and I will keep pressing the case for rural areas to get a higher proportion of this in the future.
Although infection rates are continuing to fall in Suffolk, a successful vaccination programme is vital to getting back to normal - and the government is on track to reach its ambitious target to vaccinate the top four priority groups by the middle of February. In the meantime, though, it is still really important that we all follow the rules and do what we can to limit journeys away from our homes. We must keep doing what we can to avoid transmitting the virus.