Report Director of Commissioning Strategy and Development (Primary Care), NHS County Durham CCG and Director of Public Health, Durham County Council.
The Board received an update report and presentation from the COVID-19 Vaccine Inequalities Group, presented by the Chief Officer of the County Durham CCG, Dr Stewart Findlay (for copy of see file of minutes).
Dr Stewart Findlay introduced himself and explained in addition to his role as Chief Officer of the County Durham CCG he was also an Associate Medical Director of the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and the Primary Care Director of the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme across the North East and North Cumbria.
He referred the Board to the comprehensive report within the agenda pack and highlighted that the vaccination programme was the most powerful weapon we had to fight against the pandemic. He noted good uptake in general in County Durham and the region, however, there were still some hard to reach groups where special measures had been taken to get out to those groups.
Dr Stewart Findlay noted that it had been shown that there was now a need for three vaccinations, with the first two being eight weeks apart which appeared to be the optimal gap. He added that protection appeared to wane by around 20 percent after around six months and therefore a third dose was needed for full protection, similar to Tetanus and Polio vaccination schedules for children. He emphasised that it was important that people came forward for their boosters to help prevent measures such as further lockdowns, citing Austria as an example where previous low vaccination uptake was now resulting in strict lockdowns.
He explained that a multiagency group had looked at inequalities across the County and noted there had been a number of ways looked at in attempting to address the issue. He noted the rapid development of systems when looking to roll out vaccinations and that there were a number of groups that were picked up including refugees, homeless and Gypsy, Roma and Travellers groups.
Dr Stewart Findlay explained that the aim had been to vaccinate 70 percent across all groups, difficult when dealing with those hard to reach groups. He noted that there still were a large number of unvaccinated across the County and those tended to be more likely to attend hospital and potentially an ITU bed.
Dr Stewart Findlay noted that initially it had been thought the majority of vaccinations would be given via the large vaccination centres, however, that had been quickly changed to a more local level via Primary Care Network sites, and then via individual GPs and community pharmacies. He added that momentum was built upon with pop-up clinics, such as at Durham University, and the roll out of the MELISSA Bus out to help reach the homeless and worked with North Yorkshire to work to roll out vaccinations at Appleby Fair. He noted the success and popularity of the bus, with over 5,000 vaccines delivered via the MELISSA Bus. Members were asked to note the figures in terms of vaccine uptake.
Councillor T Henderson asked if there was any update on whether the Government would vaccinate the under 12s in the coming months. Dr Stewart Findlay noted that some countries, such as the USA had started to look at the under 12s, however, he noted there was no indication yet that the UK would be going down that route, though it was on the list of options the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) were looking at. He noted that currently the prevalence of COVID-19 in the County was being driven by 4-12 year olds and therefore to protect the public at large it would be a good idea to vaccinate those younger children. He added that it was known the younger the person the more likely it was that they would not be seriously affected by COVID-19. He added that as the risk to those individuals was much less we had to be absolutely sure that for those children the vaccine was safe, though it was thought the risks would be minimal as the vaccine was a very safe vaccine.
(i) That the report be noted.
(ii) That the Board acknowledge the significant amount of collaborative work that had been undertaken to increase vaccination uptake in under-represented groups.
(iii) That the Board recognise that work to reduce the gap in vaccine uptake between different population groups was ongoing.