Bill Esterson MP has supported calls for more control to be given to local health teams in the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, as he urged the government to ensure vulnerable constituents in Formby, Crosby and Hightown received their jabs “as soon as possible”.
The government has been accused of creating a “postcode lottery” as many areas have had no vaccines supplied yet. It has been more than a month since vulnerable residents and healthcare workers in some areas of the country started receiving the vaccine, however vulnerable residents in many communities have yet to be informed when it would be their turn.
Sefton had just two boxes of the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine – with just 975 doses in each box – supplied, in mid-December. These were administered to a limited number of vulnerable residents over four days at sites in Maghull and Southport. Residents of Formby, Hightown and Crosby were not invited for vaccination at that stage due to a lack of supply of the vaccine.
Many constituents have contacted Sefton Central MP Mr Esterson frustrated at a lack of information about when they and their elderly relatives might receive the vaccine.
Mr Esterson said: “Understandably people are anxious about when they or their loved ones will receive the vaccine. They see on the news that one million people have had the vaccine in the UK, however they have heard nothing. They see that Maghull and Southport have vaccination sites, whereas Formby and Crosby do not. It has led to a lot of confusion and anger that some communities seem to be getting priority over others. But the main problem is the supply of the vaccine – there have just not been enough, quickly enough. One million across the UK sounds like a lot but this has equated to just two boxes – fewer than 2,000 doses – being supplied for Sefton. There have been no further vaccines here in Sefton since then, however from January 8 residents of Formby will begin to be invited for a vaccine at Ainsdale Health and Wellbeing Centre. But even then only 1,375 vaccines will be delivered at that stage. The government must be clearer with the public about this slow supply of vaccines and give more power to local health teams to put in place plans to deliver the vaccine.”
The Sunday Times reported that one in four people in England – 13 million people – live in constituencies where no vaccines had yet been administered in the community. Liverpool public health director Matt Ashton was reported as being critical of the government’s current “command and control” approach and said: “We need much more of a local plan.”
There were false rumours that Sefton Council had blocked the delivery of the vaccine in Formby by asking the CCG for £60,000 to use the Professional Development Centre on the Park Road Estate.
Mr Esterson wrote to the CCG to ask for clarity on the vaccine rollout.
The CCG responded:
“Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC) and NHS Southport and Formby CCG have worked collectively and collaboratively on the response to COVID19 including the identification of sites for testing and vaccinations. We were working with SMBC to explore site options which included a potential site at Formby PDC. However, at the same time we were able to identify an NHS premises that was more suitable, was compliant with NHS England criteria for COVID19 vaccination sites and was available in accordance with the nationally determined vaccine delivery schedule. There was no dispute about funding and costs were not a barrier in any way. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine quantities are determined and allocated nationally and our responsibility is to have the sites ready to receive and administer them. Please be assured that it is not the case that we could have received more vaccine if we had more sites, we were only allocated 975 doses for each patch, North and South. The wave 1 site that was available in the required timescale in the North of the Borough was Southport Health and Wellbeing Centre.
“It also important to understand that the vaccine has multiple characteristics which mean it cannot be administered in the same way as a flu vaccine for example. Adherence to existing COVID guidelines, appropriate refrigeration, safe space for mixing, drawing and handling of the vaccine and the requirement for patients to be observed for 15 minutes post vaccination are just some of the factors that need to be accounted for when identifying appropriate premises. Also at the time the first batch of vaccine was received it was not clinically permissible to break down the packs and deliver them to any other sites as the vaccine could not be moved and had to be administered on the site they were delivered to.
“Ainsdale Health and Wellbeing Centre that will cover the populations of Ainsdale, Birkdale and Formby will go live on the 8th January and will receive 975 Pfizer BioNTech and 400 doses of the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine. In all cases the vaccine we have available will go to our priority groups as determined by the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) which includes over 80s, care home staff and residents and NHS front line staff. As more vaccines become available we will scale up to respond to ensure our populations are vaccinated in accordance with the JCVI guides.
“In addition, and since we administered the first doses of the vaccine, we have been advised that there has been a change in the guidance for the handling of the Pfizer Vaccine which means that we are now able, in controlled circumstances, to transport a defined quantity of the vaccine so we can take out to care homes. We will receive some additional doses next week and will be administering them at Cedar Grange Nursing Home. We are then planning to roll out that programme to all 130 care homes within Sefton.
“I do fully appreciate that it is frustrating for individuals who will be eager to understand when they can expect to receive their vaccine. We are now just over 2 weeks into the programme and we will continue to scale up that programme as more and more vaccine becomes available.”
Mr Esterson wrote to the Health Secretary to asking when more residents could expect to be vaccinated.
Mr Esterson said, “GPs will contact patients when the vaccine is available. The Pfizer Biontech vaccine needs very careful storage and handling. I shall continue to press for both it and the more easily transported Oxford vaccine to start being used in Formby, Hightown and Crosby as soon as possible.”