Covid: Race to vaccinate North Yorkshire 'progressing at pace', say NHS officials
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Amanda Bloor, accountable officer of NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said the health service was at a "dangerous" point in the pandemic with the number of virus patients in hospitals now surpassing the peak of the first wave.
At Harrogate Hospital, the number of Covid admissions has more than doubled in the last seven days, up from 19 to 46, and health bosses have been forced to postpone some non-urgent surgeries because of a "significant strain on services".
Mrs Bloor said there was some cause for hope in the "good progress" that had been made on the aim to protect the county's most vulnerable residents among four priority groups with their first vaccine dose by 15 February.
She said there are now 12 local vaccination sites online in the county and that approval of the third Moderna coronavirus vaccine was also "really positive news".
"We are progressing at pace as we get more experienced in delivering the vaccine and as more sites are coming online," Mrs Bloor told a meeting of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum today.
"We are making really good progress - both nationally and locally - with the vaccination programme and are receiving regular supplies of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines into North Yorkshire.
"We are focusing initially on providing vaccinations to the first four cohorts as prioritised by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
"Those cohorts are residents in care homes and their carers, all those over 80, all frontline health and care workers, all those over 75, all those over 70 and clinically extremely vulnerable adults.
"The focus now is on getting as many first doses out to people as possible and the time window between second and first doses has moved from three weeks to 12 weeks."
Mrs Bloor said because of national policy she could not reveal how many vaccine doses have been given in North Yorkshire but did confirm the location of the 12 vaccination sites in Harrogate, Leyburn, Northallerton, Filey, Whitby, Scarborough, Malton, Pickering, Selby, Tadcaster and two in York.
She said the vaccine is also being administered in Harrogate, York and Scarborough hospitals.
As of yesterday, 387 coronavirus patients were in the county’s hospitals, an increase of 116 on the previous week and 85 above the peak of the first wave in April.
There were also almost 500 NHS workers off due to either having Covid or having to self-isolate.
“We are in a dangerous situation," Mrs Bloor said. "The number of Covid positive patients in our hospitals is well above the first wave. This is a place we did not want to be in and that number is continuing to rise and the trend is upwards.
“I have spoken to hospital colleagues across North Yorkshire and York and they have a really, really simple message and that is ‘stay at home’.
“They are seeing an unprecedented level of demand and it is imperative that everyone now follows the government guidance."
Mrs Bloor warned against reports of vaccine scams and said people would be contacted by the NHS only when it is their turn.
She also said people should avoid going to A&E unless "in the event of a life-threatening or limb-threatening emergency" due to the pressure hospitals are facing.
“Please use NHS 111 in the first instance," she said. "I can’t stress how much the NHS is now relying on everyone to make really sensible choices and to follow the guidance to the letter."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter