NORTH EAST: Anger at vaccine supply cut
North East leaders have reacted with horror to reports that the number of Covid vaccine doses being sent to the region is set to be cut.
According to the Health Service Journal, supplies sent to GP practices in the North East and Yorkshire will be slashed from 200,000 to 100,000 next week – because vaccinations of the most vulnerable people have been conducted more quickly here than other parts of the country.
Kim McGuinness, the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, called the move an “absolute disgrace”.
Heath Secretary Matt Hancock appeared to confirm the report when asked about it in the House of Commons on Thursday, saying “we’ve got to make sure that vaccination programme is fair right across the UK”.
Ms McGuinness tweeted: “Please tell me this isn’t true. If it is, it’s an absolute disgrace. We have the best public health network/partnership in the country. Are they really going to penalise us for getting this right?!”
The Health Service Journal reported that health managers in the North East have been told supply is to be cut because they have vaccinated a greater percentage of their population than other regions, including more than half of the over-80s.
Newcastle City Council’s Labour leader Nick Forbes said it was “an outrage”, while his Gateshead counterpart Martin Gannon told a full council meeting on Thursday afternoon that he was “doing everything I can to control my temper”.
Coun Gannon added that, while he understood the argument around allowing other areas to catch up with their vaccination rollout, the higher levels of deprivation and vulnerability in the North East mean that we should be allowed to keep pressing ahead with administering doses.
He said: “We have, clearly, the very best public health network in the entire country. I would be furious, I think we all should be in the region, if we are being penalised for being the best.
“The second point is that I can kind of understand that we have to let other areas catch up. However, we have greater need and greater vulnerability in the North East of England than some of the areas that are supposedly going to be allowed to catch up.”
Coun Jonathan Wallace, Gateshead’s Lib Dem opposition leader, also shared concerns over the news and said that ministers should have told local authorities about the shift directly, rather than leaving them to find out through the media.
The Government has pledged to vaccinate everyone in the first four priority groups by the middle of February – including everyone over 70, care home staff and residents, and frontline health and social care workers.
Asked about the report of cutting the vaccine supply by Yorkshire MP Jon Trickett, Mr Hancock said: “Of course we’ve got to make sure that vaccination programme is fair right across the UK, and some parts of the country, including parts of the North East and parts of Yorkshire, have gone really fast early on, which is terrific.
“And we do have to make sure that the vaccination programme is fair everywhere, so that everyone in the top four groups can receive that offer of a vaccine by the 15th of February. We will deliver on that.”
It is unclear whether hospital hubs or the mass vaccination site at Newcastle’s Centre for Life will also see their supplies cut next week.
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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