I am pleased to report that the roll out of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines is now well underway across Brentwood with hundreds of vulnerable older people having already received doses at our vaccination hubs.
The Brentwood Centre is the largest hub within my constituency and I have been very impressed by the reports I have had from vaccine recipients and volunteers about the efficiency of the organisation.
This week I have been talking to those involved in arranging appointments and administering vaccines locally and have heard how they are making progress with vaccinating older and more vulnerable residents. With some careful management, the medical and admin staff are working hard to get vaccines to the right people.
The Prime Minister has said that our goal is that by mid-February we will have offered the vaccine to everyone in the four top priority groups. These groups, identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), are: people aged 70 and over; care home residents; the clinically extremely vulnerable; and the health and social care staff looking after them.
I know there is a huge amount of anxiety from many constituents about when they or their elderly relatives will receive an appointment. The NHS will contact all those eligible in the first wave to arrange a time. Most people will receive a letter from their GP or the national booking system which will include all the information they need, including their NHS number. Some services are also phoning and texting patients to invite them in. I know lots of people will be eager to get protected but the NHS is clear in its request that people should wait to be contacted rather than getting in touch. So please, be patient – this is the largest vaccination programme in our history.
It is, of course, absolutely essential that we do get the country and our area vaccinated. Locally we are still seeing a large increase in hospital admissions which, coupled with the emergence of a new variant of the virus, shows we cannot let our guard down. Locally, Brentwood Community Hospital has five wards open for COVID patients, and Army medics have been drafted in to support NHS staff care for patients. Our levels of infection remain amongst the highest in the country and it is vital that we fight off this peak without the health service being overwhelmed. Please continue to follow all the guidance to control the virus – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.
[photo taken in pre-national lockdown times]