The rollout of COVID vaccines to Central Bedfordshire residents in their early 40s may be slower than for previous age groups, a health manager has warned.
“The government is extending the vaccination programme to 40 to 44-year-olds this week“, Central Bedfordshire Council’s social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee was told.
But a challenge remains around the vaccine supply for first dosage over the next few weeks, according to director of performance and governance at BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group Geraint Davies.
“We’re looking at how we encourage the delivery of the first dosage to the appropriate age ranges and how we prioritise second doses,” he explained.
“It’s important people get their second doses within 11 weeks of their first vaccination.”
More than 454,000 first doses have been given across the BLMK area by April 15, and just over 113,000 second doses.
“We’re seeing some hesitation and declines of people coming forward to the vaccination programme,” said Mr Davies.
“It’s really important people take up their vaccinations. We’ve seen one per cent declining who should be taking it.
“For Central Bedfordshire, there’s a really positive outcome with our 80-year-old and over population at 97 per cent, our 75 to 79-year-olds also at 97 per cent, and our 70 to 74 is 96 per cent.
“Then our 65 to 69 is 94 per cent, our 60 to 64 is 93 per cent, and our 55 to 59 is 90 per cent.
“The others haven’t been vaccinated as long, but our 50 to 54 is 89 per cent, which is again a good outcome.
“For our second doses, over 80s is 87 per cent, 75 to 79 is 70 per cent, and 70 to 74 is 40 per cent.
“For residents aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions, those figures include the clinically vulnerable and that’s 95 per cent.”
Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion asked what would happen if the system was forced to choose between first and second doses.
Mr Davies replied: “We’ve sufficient supply to target the vaccinations for those requiring their first dosage in the appropriate age ranges.
“We’ve had a commitment of sufficient supply to deliver second dosage and have to ensure we’re doing that by targeting it in the appropriate way.
“We may not have the speed of extending the rollout into the 40 to 43-year-olds as quickly as we did the other age ranges.”
Councillor Versallion, who chairs the committee, inquired: “So if forced to choose, you’d slow down the rollout for the younger people to ensure the second dose is delivered within the 11 weeks.”
The rollout “may be slightly elongated to do that,” added Mr Davies.
“It’s also really important we target the people who haven’t come forward in the current age cohorts.”
Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker wondered if there was vaccine hesitancy “leading to an uphill battle” around the second dose.
Mr Davies replied: “We’re seeing ‘did not attends’ for the second doses, which is a challenge.
“There’s concern the younger you are the more hesitant you might be to take your vaccine.
“We should see some adverts on national television around that issue.”
Councillor Versallion questioned whether residents reluctant to have the second vaccination would be told they would be wasting the first vaccine and have an obligation to see the programme through.
Mr Davies responded: “We’re not physically knocking doors. We’re ringing people and sending them texts to get them in.”