Newham behind its Covid-19 vaccination target
- Credit: Andrew Baker
A doctor has warned Newham is behind its Covid-19 vaccination target.
Dr Hardip Singh Nandra, who manages Essex Lodge Surgery in Plaistow, called for an increase in vaccine supplies and cuts to NHS red tape so more centres can open faster.
Dr Nandra, who admitted feeling exasperated, said at the moment Newham is behind the target to vaccinate the top two priority groups, which includes all those over 80.
"The bureaucracy in setting up a clinic has been an obstacle in preventing other practices or sites from opening up," he added.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this month an ambition to offer a first dose of the vaccine by mid-February to the top four groups identified as priorities.
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The NHS operates two centres in the borough - Essex Lodge, and Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health and Wellbeing Centre in Stratford. Both use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which has to be used on site.
Essex Lodge has delivered 3,000 jabs to date while Sir Ludwig Guttmann has issued 4,000 or 5,000, according to Dr Nandra.
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There are hubs at ExCeL and Westfield as well as pharmacists in Newham which all offer the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, but these are not only for vaccinating priority groups.
Neighbouring boroughs - Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge - have four large centres while Newham has two.
However, the borough has seen some of the highest infection rates in the country. The latest figures show the number of new cases fell in the week up to January 23 with 2,170 positive tests, down from 3,208 the week before.
The rate of cases has fallen from 898 per 100,000 to 596 per 100,000, but levels are "still much too high", according to Jason Strelitz who is Newham's director of public health.
Dr Nandra said: "We're not getting enough supplies and some of the patients are housebound. This week we started vaccinating those people.
"Hopefully, by the middle of February then we will have done 95 per cent of the over 85s."
The over 75s and anyone with severe medical illnesses are also now being inoculated.
Newham is expected to vaccinate about 200,000 people out of a population of 350,000.
"If there are two sites, and at the rate we are doing, it will take us till October to vaccinate 200,000 people - 47 weeks. We need a couple more sites and more supplies. That is the answer," Dr Nandra said.
However, John Rooke, of Newham clinical commissioning group, said: "We are on target to achieve our aim of vaccinating all 1-4 priority groups by mid-February, but to do this we recognise we need to continue the exceptional work of everyone concerned.
"We already have the large scale site at Excel, and we have just opened the Westfield large scale site and are opening up a number of pharmacies.
"We continue to expand the vaccination capacity with seven vaccination sites now in Newham. These sites are preparing for increases in the supply of vaccines.
"We are working with our communities to provide information and to listen and respond to any concerns they may have."