THE Health Secretary has said that the vaccine roll-out in the North-East will continue to be as “important” as it is across the UK after some clinics could not run due to supply.
Speaking to The Northern Echo during the Downing Street press conference on Friday, Matt Hancock said the region had “nailed” the vaccination programme so far.
It came as The Echo this week learned that some GP-led clinics could not run as they had not received any supply, with one site unable to resume until March 5.
Quizzed on concerns raised, Mr Hancock said that issues with supply of the vaccine were “equally balanced” across the country as he praised efforts in the region so far.
He said: “The North-East has done a brilliant job in vaccinating, it came out of the blocks really fast and has worked absolute wonders.
“I want to thank in particular the volunteers and the NHS staff in the North-East, who have worked so hard to get those vaccinations done.
‘Supply is coming back’
“There has been a lower amount of supply across the whole UK in the last week or so, you’ll have seen that in the last 48 hours that has picked up again, and yesterday we did over half a million jabs for the first time in over a week, so that supply is coming back.
“We all know it goes up and down and we’re going to have a bumper March, but I do know that there have been some vaccination centres that have been so efficient and have been able to use all of their supply, and I’m grateful for the work they’ve done.
“The good news is that these challenges are faced equally throughout the whole of the UK.”
Mr Hancock’s comments came after a number of vaccine clinics in the North-East were reportedly unable to run as they had not received supply this week.
North-East GP, Ben Burville, who is clinical lead for the vaccine site at the Coquet Medical Group, warned GP-sites needed to be prioritised as more mass vaccination sites open.
He said: “If the question is ‘should vaccine be prioritised to mass vaccination centres,’ the answer is no.
“It needs to be looked at with a lot more detail to say ‘in this area, where should the vaccine be going to make sure it serves its purpose to the full’.”
Dr Burville said his team had been forced to stop clinics beyond the week commencing February 22 until March 5 at the earliest, as the group had not received the vaccine.
He said that in rural parts of the region, patients were often unable to travel to mass vaccination centres as an alternative.
He said: “But in rural parts of the North-East, the vaccine should be going to the Primary Care Network sites and really the vaccine should be prioritised to those sites.
“We’ve got vaccine sites across Northumberland who are shouting out for vaccine to be delivered to them and they don’t have any.
“Primary Care Networks should be prioritised in the areas like Northumberland, where there are large rural communities – this is the main route of the vaccine in areas like this.
“It’s very frustrating for teams that have spent a considerable amount of time planning their staff, getting ready and GP-led Primary Care Networks across Northumberland are now sitting there with no vaccine.”
Later in the press conference, Mr Hancock said: “I get questions from the South-West, similar to your question in the North-East and that gives me the impression that this challenge of the rollout is equally balanced.
“As far as I’m concerned every single person getting access to their jab in the North-East is as important as in ever other part of the country and we will make sure the programme delivers according to those principles.
“But I don’t know what more I can say for my enthusiasm for what the North-East has done, but it has really nailed it in the vaccination programme so far.”