People aged under-65 are now being offered the vaccine
People aged under-65 are now being offered the vaccine

Health chiefs said today that 79 per cent of people aged 65-69 in the Black Country and West Birmingham have now had their first dose of the jab, enabling them to offer it to the next priority group ahead of schedule.

This week half a million invitation letters have gone out to people aged 64.

It came as a health expert in the West Midlands said we should all feel “cautiously optimistic” about the future, but warned that Covid cases were still too high.

People on the GP Learning Disabilities Register are also set to be invited for the jab after being moved up into priority group six.

Official figures show that more than one third of all adults in the region (331,000) have now had their first dose, with the uptake for those aged over 65 averaging 89 per cent.

In Dudley the take up is 92 per cent and in Walsall it is 91 per cent. It is 87 per cent in Wolverhampton and 86 per cent in Sandwell and West Birmingham.

In Sandwell alone, around 90 per cent of people aged over 70 have been vaccinated, while the uptake so far in the 65-69 age group is 80 per cent.

Writing in the Express & Star today, Kate Spence, director of health protection for Public Health England in the West Midlands, urged people to hold their nerve by keeping to lockdown rules as we wait for society to open up.

She said: “This week we can finally start to feel cautiously optimistic about the coming months. But rates across the country are still relatively high, and with the West Midlands currently being the region with the second highest rate of Covid-19 cases in the country there is still much work to be done here.”

The UK’s Covid alert level has been downgraded to four.

Health chiefs have urged people to come forward for the jab when they are called.

Sally Roberts, senior officer for the vaccination programme at Black Country and West Birmingham CCGs, said: “If you are 65 and over – or if you are under 65 and clinically vulnerable or a frontline health and social care worker – and you haven’t booked yet, please make this week the week that you book for your potentially life-saving vaccine by calling 119 or visiting the national booking service website.

“I am aware that the news that those with learning disabilities are now included in the list of those who are clinically vulnerable has been welcomed by many.

“Our GP led services will be contacting you and others who are in this cohort over the next few days to invite you for your vaccine.”

People aged 64 have been invited to book at one of the region’s vaccination centres or community pharmacy-led sites, while GPs are inviting those who are at clinical risk, including those with a learning disability, and adult carers.

Infections rates are continuing to fall across the region, but at 145.4 cases per 100,000 people they remain higher than the national average of 108.2.

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