After visiting a local vaccination centre and speaking alongside other West Sussex MPs to our Local Health Commissioners on 9th January I am pleased to provide the update below. In line with the vaccination of over 1.5 million people across the UK including many of the most vulnerable and NHS frontline workers, the vaccine programme is well underway in West Sussex. Arrangements are in place for all GP practices:
Is the vaccine roll-out happening locally?/Why have I not been contacted?
The programme is very much underway. Most Horsham constituents will be inoculated via the network hubs at Park Surgery and Christ’s Hospital. These both got up and running at an early stage. They are being run enormously efficiently and have inoculated thousands of the most vulnerable.
Billingshurst Surgery is part of a PCN (Primary Care Network) with Steyning, Storrington and Henfield, with Storrington selected as the vaccination site. The programme has started and is progressing and Billingshurst residents will be contacted as soon as they are needed to come forward. Once the (much easier to store, deliver and administer) Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is received the programme is expected to be expanded.
In the Mid Sussex area of the constituency many practices are working with East Grinstead where the East Court site goes live the week beginning 10th January.
Who is being offered the vaccine first?
This was decided by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on how best to save lives and protect the NHS, the priority list is below and more details can be found on the gov.uk website.
What else are you doing to increase roll-out?
Four extra large vaccine centres are being created including one at Crawley expected to be opening in the first week in February. There may also be a further site created at Gatwick. Three vaccines have been approved and ample stocks have been pre-bought however the production and certification of vaccines takes time. At present this is on track but the NHS can only inoculate as fast as the vaccines are produced.
I was expecting a second dose why was it postponed?
The experts on vaccines are the JCVI. They have decided that the best way to help everyone and to defeat Covid is for as many people as possible to receive the first dose as soon as possible. Their decision has been fully supported by all four Chief Medical Officers in the United Kingdom.
The first dose gives people significant immunity against getting seriously ill from Covid, especially in the short term. The more vulnerable people who receive this first dose the better. Not only will it prevent deaths it will also keep people out of hospital. This works to the benefit of everyone. Many recipients of first doses to date have other underlying health conditions: by ensuring more people receive the first dose alongside them we are helping maintain the resilience of hospitals, reducing the number of people needing to be treated for Covid, ensuring medical resources are still available to treat all other conditions.
Why did others receive a second dose?
When the JCVI took the decision to postpone second doses many tens of thousands of patients were already booked in across the country to receive them. Where it was deemed practically impossible to get around all these patients to cancel them and book in other vulnerable patients to receive their first dose, these appointments went ahead. However in recent days where the NHS believes there has been sufficient time to explain and stand down patients in order to broaden the number of people protected this has taken place. This has meant a huge amount of work for local teams calling hundreds of patients to cancel appointments and to book in others. It has also, I know, caused a lot of upset to those who were expecting to come in. It is however the right way to help maximise the medical response to the virus and get best protection from the vaccines for all.
When will I get my second dose?
Everyone will still need a second dose which, in particular, helps provide longer term protection. The JCVI has set rules as to by when the second dose must be administered. Patients will be contacted when required.
Facts regarding the vaccine and the roll out are being published regularly on the gov.uk website. Answers to some key questions are below:
Who is eligible to receive the vaccine?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has prioritised people for vaccination based on their risk of serious COVID-19 disease after SARS-CoV-2 infection. The priority order, confirmed on 2nd December and subject to logistical challenges in rollout, is as follows:
Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
All those 80 years of age and over; frontline health and social care workers
All those 75 years of age and over
All those 70 years of age and over; clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
All those 65 years of age and over
All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
All those 60 years of age and over
All those 55 years of age and over
All those 50 years of age and over
As more vaccine becomes available, it will be rolled out to those in each descending group.
Why are older people being prioritised over younger people who are out of the house working?
The priorities are based on reducing risk of harm. The immune system of older people differs from that of younger people and whilst the younger, working population are just as likely to become infected they are much, much less likely to become severely ill. An older person becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 is more likely to result in severe COVID-19 disease. The biggest risk of mortality from COVID-19 comes with age, even more so than underlying conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, for example, or being male or being in BAME groups. Each older generation has approximately 10 times the risk of dying from COVID-19 than the generation below it. When a vaccine has been shown to be effective in preventing disease in older people, then they should be the first to receive it as they are most at risk.
Do I need to get the vaccine if I have contracted COVID-19 and recovered?
Yes. There is a lot of uncertainty about how much immunity a person gains after natural infection. The levels of immunity that we can measure so far show a lot of individual variation - some people have very few antibodies after infection but these antibodies can be boosted by vaccination. We can’t assume that everyone who has had COVID-19 would have enough immunity to protect them. It is likely that, in a significant proportion of the population, the vaccine will induce more effective and longer lasting immunity than that induced by infection. Hence it is recommended that everyone take the vaccine so that, if your immunity after disease is absent or low, it can be boosted.
Why should a young person take the vaccine when the risk of COVID-19 mortality is so low?
There is a huge variability in the symptoms and severity of COVID-19 disease between different people; from an infection with SARS-CoV-2 that doesn’t have any symptoms (asymptomatic infection) to severe COVID-19 disease resulting in hospitalisation and in some cases death. While younger people are usually at the less severe end of the spectrum this does not mean that the illness is not harmful to their health. In fact, there are many instances of long COVID that have blighted the lives of young people.