Up to 60 per cent of people living in parts of Bedford are yet to receive their FIRST COVID-19 vaccine, a committee heard.

So called vaccine hesitancy in the town even reaches into the borough’s hospital where around 1,300 health workers out of a workforce of 8,700 are yet to be jabbed.

Health leaders say they are not letting up in their efforts to persuade people in Queen’s Park, Cauldwell, Castle and Kingsway, Harpur, and Kingsbrook to take their jabs, and give them easier options for vaccination.

In Queen’s Park only around 40 per cent of people have received one dose and in Kingsbrook the figure stood at 51 per cent on 16 May, according to figures presented to Bedford Borough Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee.

In other parts of the borough, especially in the rural wards, the uptake is more than double that of Queen’s Park, with rates of 80 and 90 per cent.

Dr Bharathy Kumaravel, a consultant in public health medicine at Bedford Borough Council said there were a combination of factors at play.

It’s hesitancy in ethnic minorities and socio-economic deprivation together,” she said at the meeting on Monday (7 June 2021).

At the same time the disease has been prevalent in black African, black Caribbean and Asian communities.

That’s why we are specifically targeting those four or five geographical areas.”

She added: “We are working with the communities, reaching out to them, addressing their queries, providing access to the vaccine.

We are hoping that in a month we will have tackled it.”

Cllr Fouzia Zamir (Lab, Cauldwell) asked: “How are we encouraging people who don’t use social media, are housebound and they can’t go out?

They have language barriers, they have no transport and they don’t go out and interact. How can we encourage them to get the vaccine?

Dr Kumaravel said fliers in different languages are being delivered to those streets and they hope the vaccine locations, including local pharmacies, would make the jabs easier to get.

There are also efforts to increase uptake in the town’s Polish and Romanian communities.

Ms Anne Murray, the director of nursing at the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes clinical commissioning group, said 80.8 per cent of health and social care staff had been vaccinated.

The take up rate is higher in the hospital where around 1,300 employees are not vaccinated out of 8,798 (14.7 per cent).

Although Ms Murray queried whether her own data is up to date, believing the unvaccinated number to be lower, she said it is “still quite a significant number of staff.”

Cllr Kay Burley (Lab, Kempston Central & East) said: “For people unfortunately who have to be admitted to hospital there is a fear that the people who are going to be – in quotes – looking after them may in fact not be vaccinated.

We need to know whether they are people on the wards or in the back office. It’s disconcerting and we need to keep our eye on it.

Ms Murray agreed: “I completely agree. We want our residents to feel comfortable.