Senior Suffolk doctor admits to problems in local vaccine rollout

A doctor prepares to administer a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

Fears have been raised that Suffolk is lagging behind most of England - Credit: PA

A senior Suffolk doctor has admitted the county has experienced problems in its coronavirus vaccine rollout, amid fears over local opening hours.

With the NHS continuing to pull off its greatest ever operation, concerns have been raised by people across Suffolk over centres being closed – with more rural sites having closed for short periods of times for differing factors. Others fear Suffolk is lagging behind most of the country.

Despite five sites having been advertised as having the capacity to open 12-hours a day, every day of the week, the only around-the-clock centre remaining open for those hours is the new mass vaccination centre at Ipswich's Gainsborough Sports Centre – aside from Ipswich and Colchester hospitals.

A spokesman for the Suffolk GP Federation said while their five centres in Debenham, Haverhill, Trinity Park, Stowmarket and Woodbridge do have the capacity to open seven days-a-week, the plan has never been for them to do so. This is the same for sites run by the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System.

It is understood this is due to vaccines being delivered in three-day batches, with centres halting administering them once a batch has completed, until further doses are delivered. Spokesmen for both organisations have stressed supplies remain good.

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Both organisations remain confident of Suffolk reaching the national target of offering vaccines to everyone in the top four priority groups by mid-February.

Dr Mark Shenton, GP in Stowmarket and chairman of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissionin

Dr Mark Shenton apologised to those worried by Suffolk's vaccination programmes - Credit: Archant

Dr Mark Shenton, chairman of the Ipswich and East Suffolk NHS Clinical Commissioning Group – which does not operate the Suffolk GP Federation-led centres – apologised to people in Suffolk who have been worried by the rollout of the vaccine locally.

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Speaking to BBC Radio Suffolk, Dr Shenton said: "Where we know there are problems we are working hard to rectify them, and they aren't all in our control.

"Where they are not in our control, we are doing as much as we can to influence things to change."

Earlier closures at four of the sites were caused by a batch of vaccines being delivered with a shorter lifespan, although no doses were wasted.

The latest vaccination figures give cause for renewed optimism, with a figure revealed Monday showing 67% of over 80s in Suffolk and north east Essex have received their first dose.

Figures had been lower in Suffolk and north east Essex than much of the country however – with 36% having received their first jab before January 17, while other areas across England had topped 60%, including neighbouring mid and south Essex.

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