Some 8,900 health and social care staff across the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) region are set to receive letters urging them to take their covid vaccines, a meeting heard.
And the BLMK partnership board, which brings together council and health service leaders, was also told that people in most vulnerable cohorts 1-4 could also be written to within days to overcome stubborn levels of “vaccine hesitancy“.
The board, meeting on Wednesday afternoon (3 February 2021), heard there is a particular problem of vaccine hesitancy among care home staff and over 80s from ethnic minority communities.
As few as 30 per cent of care home staff in Luton have had their jabs, with Bedford and Milton Keynes averaging 54 per cent and Central Beds at the top of the table with 65 per cent.
Dorothy Griffiths, who chairs Central & North West London Trust (CNWL), said she had “feedback” suggesting vaccine centres were dominated by people who are “white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant.”
Felicity Cox, the newly appointed accountable officer of the BLMK “integrated care system” said she “can’t vouch for their religion“.
But she added: “We know there’s generally an issue with people from the black population, both African and Caribbean with vaccine hesitancy and we can see that both in staff and in members of the public.
“We have seen a slower uptake in Luton among the over 80s where there’s a high population from various ethnic minorities.“
According to data that they are allowed to make public, across BLMK some 21 per cent (one in five) of over 80s had yet to be vaccinated.
Among the 75 to 79 year-olds that figure is 22 per cent and falling with some some 57 per cent of 70-74 year-olds yet to get their jabs, as of yesterday.
Ms Cox added: “A significant number of health and social care staff, we think about 8,900 are yet to be vaccinated, and they will be getting letters to encourage them to go to the mass vaccination centres.”
Robin Porter, the chief executive of Luton Borough Council said all faith leaders in the town have been vaccinated and he hopes this will “ripple through the community“.
The meeting also heard that some 3,000 people are in hospital across the region with covid. Critical care is at 151 per cent of normal capacity.
They don’t expect to get back to normal until the middle of April, as a “best guess”.
Ian Reckless, the medical director of Milton Keynes University Hospital said: “It’s going to be a longer lasting issue.”
On a more positive note the programme of giving people their second jab is due to start next week in hospital hubs.
The meeting was told that people in Milton Keynes are now starting to receive their invitations to go for their top up at the hospital.
The meeting was also given an update on the flu jabs.
Dr Sanhita Chakrabarti of the BLMK clinical commissioning group (CCG) said an average 30 per cent of staff in care homes had their flu vaccination.