MP praises vaccine rollout in Harrogate but expresses dismay at verbal abuse of NHS staff
Harrogate's MP has said he was hugely impressed after visiting the town's biggest vaccination centre but has condemned as "unacceptable" the verbal abuse of NHS staff from members of the public anxious to get the vaccine.
Andrew Jones went to to see how the vaccination programme was being rolled out at the Great Yorkshire Showground yesterday afternoon, Thursday.
Partly because of what he saw, the Tory MP is now convinced the country is on the road back to something like normality within six months.
Mr Jones said: "My impression was that it was very well-organised. You could tell as soon as you walked in there was a positive, buoyant atmosphere.
"It is clearly a high volume centre. It was very busy. There were a lot of people attending.
"I was very impressed by how well it was organised by the NHS Primary Care network. It was a perfect example of professional experts supported by volunteers working well together."
Nationally, more than 700 local vaccination sites are administering anti-Covid jabs so far, including seven mass vaccination sites.
This week has also seen the Government announce 180 GP-led sites, 100 new hospital sites and a pilot scheme involving local pharmacies.
The MP said he had seen real urgency at work in Harrogate over vaccination and swift progress was already being made to make sure people got the vaccine.
Mr Jones said: "The vaccination centre at the Great Yorkshire Showground is handling 125 to 135 people every hour.
"They are making the most of the vaccine, which is the Pfizer-BioNTech type.
"I saw the batches being broken down into six doses per glass vial.
"They are handling is so carefully and so well that they are improving on the normal breakdown of five doses."
Doubts have been raised by opposition politicians and the national media whether the vaccination target set by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of completing phase 1 of the rollout - a total of 30 million people approximately - could be reached by mid-February.
This would require at least 2 million jabs to be successful carried out each week from now.
Harrogate's MP admitted it was a big task but not only was it right to set the target, the arrival of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab would make hitting it feasible.
Mr Jones said: "The PM is right to set a very ambitious target. The faster we get the vaccine - or vaccines - rolled out, the more lives will be saved and the less pressure on the NHS.
"But it isn't just a target. People are being vaccinated right now in towns and cities across the country.
"The process is working. A total of 1.5 million people have now been vaccinated. That's more so far than all of the other comparable countries put together."
The Harrogate and Knaresborough MP also revealed the scale of progress in Harrogate and revealed that the first supplies of the new easier-to-use Oxford vaccine would be arriving next week in the Harrogate district.
He said: "So far our vaccination centres have had to use the Pfizer vaccine which is very volatile, has transport and storage issues and has a short self life.
"But the Oxford one is arriving next week which suffers from none of those drawbacks. In fact, it can be stored in a standard fridge.
"Already two care homes in our district have been vaccinated, three more are planned for tomorrow and more next week, too.
"We are getting out there to help the most vulnerable in our community.
"Our hospitals have separate supplies of the Pfizer vaccine which they are already giving to staff at Harrogate Hospital."
But Mr Jones said he has been angered by a minority of the public's "unacceptable behaviour" towards GPs and NHS staff when it came to vaccination.
He said: "Doctors running the vaccination centre I visited reported getting verbal abuse from some people about the speed of getting the vaccine either by ringing up on the phone or in person at doctors surgeries and the centre itself.
"I can understand people's frustration. We all want the vaccine. But that's no excuse for abusing NHS staff or volunteers.
"If people could see the great work being done at the vaccination centre in Harrogate, they wouldn't behave like that.
"We should all be thanking NHS staff for working so hard to deliver the vaccine.
"The vaccine is being manufactured as fast as manufacturers can produce it, the safety regulators are approving vaccines as fast as they can and the NHS is vaccinating people as fast as it can.
"People have to be patient. The priority list of who is to getting vaccinated in Phase 1 is there for a reason - to alleviate pressure on the NHS in the worst time of year for it - winter.
"Any abuse is unacceptable. The desire to get the vaccine is no excuse for being rude to NHS staff."
Mr Jones, who voted for the latest lockdown rules in Parliament earlier this week, said there would be bumpy times ahead but said he expected a return to near normality to happen in the first half of this year.
He said: "The NHS is under huge pressure. There are reports of some elective surgery and even cancer treatments being postponed in the Harrogate district.
"The situation for hospitals is already serious. That is why we all have to comply with the lockdown rules.
"There will be a bumpy road ahead because of the new variant of the virus which is very infectious.
"It's going to be a tough few months for all of is but we've got to the place where we can see light at the end of the tunnel.
"I believe we will see a return to more normal times this year. The vaccine rollout is of huge significance in the battle against Covid.
"It is going to help us regain our old lives more quickly.
"And I believe this will happen in the first half of the year."
The Government today announced that a third Covid vaccine had now been approved for the UK.
The Moderna jab is 94% effective in preventing disease but is not expected to be widely available until the spring.
So far, the Government has ordered 17 million doses of Moderna in total.
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