Since the start of coronavirus vaccinations in North Yorkshire I have remained in contact with the local teams responsible for what is the biggest programme of its type in the history of the NHS.
In just five weeks the progress made has been truly impressive. As the end of January approaches the teams – made up of NHS professionals with volunteer support – have vaccinated the vast majority of those over 80 and the residents and staff of our care homes.
They are well on the way to offering a vaccination to everyone in the top four priority groups – the over 80s, care homes residents and staff, front-line health social care workers and those over 70 and clinically extremely vulnerable – by the middle of February,
This is a tremendous achievement and my thanks to everyone involved. I have received encouraging feedback on how well the process has worked for individuals, particularly in the GP practice hubs at Northallerton – for the Hambleton area – and Leyburn – for Richmondshire.
I have also received lots of questions about the roll-out.
Last week, for example, there were reports that our success in the early stages of the programme meant that we were now being penalised and that vaccines were being diverted to other parts of the country where the roll out had been slower.
I can assure everyone that is not the case.
Every week the Yorkshire region receives a set proportion of the total amount of vaccine being distributed in the UK. That proportion is based upon the region’s population – and has not changed.
But as the total amount of vaccine being distributed in the UK each week changes, so does our supply. While total supplies are increasing over time, because of the complexities of the manufacturing, batch approval and distribution process that increase is not linear.
At the same time the number of vaccination centres is increasing. The Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, began vaccinations for health and social care workers last week as did a large centre in York.
You may receive a letter invitation to the York centre and you have a choice: to take up that invitation or wait to be contacted by your GP to have your vaccination locally.
Local health managers are looking to extend the number of places people can have their jab to reduce travelling distances as the availability of the three vaccines now approved for use in the UK increases. These will include some individual GP practices and community pharmacies – subject to the premises being suitably spacious to allow for social distancing and safe delivery of the vaccines.
I will continue to closely monitor the good progress we are making with the programme.
I was really delighted to present motor neurone disease campaigner Cath Muir, of Eppleby, near Richmond with her Prime Minister’s Point of Light Award recently.
I first met Cath three years ago when I had the privilege of attending a six-mile sponsored walk she had organised around the village.
Her indefatigable spirit was evident then and it has continued through the pandemic despite her battle against the disease. She is a most deserving recipient.
The Points of Light awards recognise outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a positive change in their community and inspiring others – just like Cath.
If you know someone who could be a Point of Light awardee you should write to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street.