'Tiny' number of second coronavirus jabs given in Shropshire

A “tiny” number of Shropshire residents have already been given both of their coronavirus vaccination jabs, but a county health boss has stressed this was purely to prevent doses going to waste.

Government advice asks vaccinate providers to give first doses as widely as possible, as these alone give some protection, and delay the second injection, especially if supplies are limited.

David Evans, the Accountable Officer for the county’s Clinical Commissioning Groups, told board members the “very small number” of second jabs had been given to use up an open batch.

CCG Planning Director Sam Tilley urged patients in less-urgent groups to be patient as they await inoculation, but said providers had received some “quite confrontational enquiries”.

She added that it was “too early to call” whether the area’s Covid-19 rate had plateaued.

Guidance published by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation splits the population into 10 priority groups. Group one incorporates elderly care home residents and their carers, group two includes over-80s and frontline health and care workers, while the remaining categories take in progressively younger and less vulnerable patients.

The vaccinations manufactured by Oxford and Pfizer-BioNTech both require two doses, although the first provides some protection by itself. In the UK, these will be given 12 weeks apart, following advice given to the government by the JCVI.

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Mr Evans said: “I would stress that we are using every vaccine that comes into the county.”

While vaccination centres were not yet up and running in all parts of Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, he said areas where a vulnerable group had been vaccinated would then help a neighbouring area, rather than proceed down the priority list in their own.

“Since Saturday, we have given a tiny number of second-dose vaccinations, and the only reason they have been administered to individuals is so we didn’t waste vaccine,” he said.

“We had some spare doses over at the end of a session. There was one particular case where a number of doses were given in a care home and it would have meant we couldn’t take the vaccine back because of the transportation issues, we would have wasted them.

“So, rather than waste them, a very small number of second doses have been given. But it is tiny.”

Ms Tilley said: “Increases in prevalence rates have been fairly stark in the lead-up to Christmas and since Christmas, with some of the largest daily increases in reported cases that we’ve seen during the pandemic.”

According to government data, Telford and Wrekin had 549 and Shropshire had 459 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people – both all-time highs – in the week leading up to January 7. The England-wide rate was 630.

“There are some fluctuations in those rates now starting to appear,” she added.

“It’s too early to call this as a plateauing or a downward trend, but we’re hoping that’s what it’s going to translate into as a result of the lockdown measures that have been taken.

“It’s absolutely essential that we continue to push the messaging around following the rules.

“Moving on to the vaccination programme, this is of course the most significant vaccination programme in the history of the NHS with many complex logistical issues

“However, the programme started on December 8 utilising the Pfizer vaccine and has worked around the many challenges that that particular vaccine has presented in terms of the way it can be used.

“That has caused, nationally, some limits on the numbers that can be vaccinated.

“Agencies are being inundated with queries from individuals – members of the public and agencies – about when they will be able to access a vaccine for themselves and their staff. We must stress that we are following the cohort schedule that has been set out by the JCVI and NHS England, and we are scrutinised on how we follow that guidance. Inevitably some people will have to wait. However, we have to stress that people will be called when it’s their turn to access the vaccine. I would ask that people are patient.

“We are aware of the frustrations. We are getting some enquiries that are quite confrontational in nature, and, obviously, that is quite difficult for staff to manage.

“People are working flat-out around the clock to make sure this programme is rolled out across the county as quickly as possible.”

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