Exclusive: Labour Calls For Door-To-Door Vaccines In Covid-19 Hot Spots
Exclusive: Door-to-door vaccines in parts of the country where take-up is low and cases are rising should be considered by the government, Labour has said today.
The prevalence of the Indian variant of Covid-19 (B.1.617.2 strain) has led to some local authorities rethinking how they deliver the vaccine, with Bolton Council and Glasgow trying to urgently vaccinate younger age groups.
However concerns continue today that the more transmissible Indian variant has taken hold in areas which have a high vaccine hesitancy rate and more needs to be done to encourage eligible people to get the jab.
Labour’s shadow public health and vaccines minister, Alex Norris, said offering people the choice of getting the jab at their home could help target areas of high vaccine hesitancy and get more people protected from the illness.
He said: "The vaccine is our way out of this crisis and our way back to living normal lives.
"We have long argued for the government to do more to tackle vaccine hesitancy and to reach everyone no matter where they live, and this should include considering delivering them door to door."
Labour has also been calling for all information on the vaccine to be available in accessible formats and other languages since the start of the roll-out.
In local authority areas Blackburn with Darwen, and Bolton, half the cases of Covid were the Indian variant, in the two weeks leading up to May 1. Case rates were on average three times higher in those areas with lower vaccine uptake, according to figures from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Public Health England.
Rates were 261 cases per 100,000 in those areas where lower shares of over-40s have been vaccinated, but in areas where more than 85 per cent of over-40s had received at least one dose, rates were much lower at 89 cases per 100,000.
Today in Bolton the council is dramatically upping its efforts to get the population vaccinated. The council’s cabinet member for adult services tweeted that everyone with a Bolton postcode and a GP who had not yet been vaccinated should visit their vaccine bus as the "the team will find a reason to vaccinate you."
And in Glasgow, health officials are also moving ahead with vaccinating younger people because of the rates of the Indian variant.
A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) said: "NHSGGC is making vaccination appointments available to people aged 18-39 for those living in the affected areas of Glasgow City."
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is also asking for the flexibility to give younger people the vaccine in parts of London where the Indian variant is a problem - this includes the boroughs of Hillingdon, Hackney, Ealing, Croydon and Bromley.
The Prime Minister's official spokesperson said today that no part of the country should be going against the advice of Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which is to give two doses to priority groups one to nine in the first instance.
“We want every part of the country to abide by the advice set out by the JCVI. It's this unified approach that has allowed us to proceed so quickly, with our vaccine rollout,” he said.
“When supplies are limited as they still are, it’s right that we target getting the two doses to those individuals rather than widening out to under 18s. Of course we keep that under review at all times,” he said.
Asked specifically if the government is considering door-to-door vaccines in hotspot areas, he said they were deploying thousands of additional doses to areas like Bolton so anyone within the JCVI list could get the vaccine easily and “that approach is working”.
While no-one will be offered the jab on the doorstep, it is understood health officials will begin visiting homes to discuss the vaccine to encourage take-up.
On vaccine hesitancy, the spokesperson said: “We’ve got a number of routes to improve vaccine hesitancy. We have the most enthusiastic population for vaccine uptake in the world and that enthusiasm has only increased as we’ve progressed on the rollout."
Approaches the government is taking with vaccine hesitant groups include engaging with people on social media, with community leaders and using trusted clinical voices, he said.
“We’re using national advertising campaigns, social media campaigns, a whole raft of approaches,” he added.
On Friday the JVCI recommended people in Indian variant hot-spot areas should be offered the second dose of their vaccine in eight weeks, not the current 12 week rule.
The latest Office for National Statistics survey on vaccine hesitancy revealed rates among the Black or Black British population were 30 percent hesitant, compared to 10 percent for the Asian or Asian British and six percent for the white population.