Number of over-80s receiving first Covid jab in region is lowest in country

John Stedman aged 82 from Lavenham getting his covid vaccination Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

John Stedman aged 82 from Lavenham getting his covid vaccination Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

A third of over-80s have been given their first dose of the Covid vaccine in Suffolk and north Essex, but that figure is the lowest in England.

NHS data published on Thursday show our region gave out 59,338 jabs between December 8, 2020 and January 17, 2021.

Of those 22,265 went into the arms of the over 80s, meaning that 36% have had their first dose, compared to almost 60% in the rest of the country. Meanwhile, 4,790 have received their second.

Across the country, nearly four million people have received the life-saving vaccine.

Andy Yacoub, of Healthwatch Suffolk, said he had been asking for breakdowns of vaccines by area and age group for a while and said it was now clear the county has “some catching up to do”. 

Public meeting at the John Peel Centre, Stowmarket, over NHS challenges. Pictured is Andy Yacoub (CE

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk - Credit: Gregg Brown

“I know there is an unprecedented joined-up programme to get the vaccines to everyone, by priority group, but it seems our challenge in Suffolk is to somehow do some catching up,” he added. 

He also questioned why approval to use mass vaccination centres has to come from the national NHS, when several in Suffolk had been ready to go for some time. 

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NHS chiefs said: "GPs across Suffolk and north east Essex are working to accelerate vaccinations and are doing so at 22 primary care-led network vaccination sites together with two community pharmacy sites, with many more locations, including larger vaccination centres about to go live."

On Thursday morning, chief executive of Suffolk's clinical commissioning groups Dr Ed Garratt told Suffolk County Council's health and wellbeing board of problems with supply.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, said the figures showed the rollout was going well nationally, but warned it would be several weeks before it had an impact on infection rates and deaths.

He said it took around two to three weeks for a vaccine to protect someone. 

"To see any effects, I would estimate about half of a population would need to be immunised, so what you should see first is a steep decline in the number of over 80s that get it which is great as they are the ones most likely to die."

There are approximately 984,184 people living in the Suffolk and north east Essex integrated care system (ICS), which incorporates Suffolk, Colchester and Tendring, according to latest population estimates.

The area includes the West Suffolk constituency of health secretary Matt Hancock. His department said they promised from the outset that vaccines would be distributed "equitably".

A spokesman added: “Some regions have been early pacemakers and have made more initial headway with their vaccination totals, and we are doing everything we can to support the NHS in other areas to reach those same numbers.”

In terms of the under-80s, which includes NHS and care staff, 31,159 first doses have been handed out in the region, compared with 1,124 second doses.

It means 3.4% of under-80s have received their first jab and 0.1% have been given their second.

NHS and care staff, over-80s, over-70s and the clinically vulnerable are among those first in line to receive the jab. 

Here, we answer your FAQs on the coronavirus vaccine rollout in Suffolk.