The full versions of the update article written for the North Devon Gazette:
The vaccine rollout in North Devon is proceeding well, with all care homes and their staff vaccinated and all over 80s should have been contacted to receive their first vaccination.
At the beginning of the vaccination rollout the local health authority press releases made no mention of North Devon. Immediately, behind the scenes I was in contact with our Clinical Commissioning Group, who are managing the vaccination rollout and received assurances that we, in the north of Devon, would not be left behind, words were not enough, and we needed to see it. I believe that we are seeing an equitable roll out, it clearly has not been as fast as we would like and it is very difficult to see and hear about other areas that may, on in some cases may not, be receiving vaccines at a faster rate that we are. Measuring one geographical area with another very different geographical area is not easy and the results can be presented to be very misleading.
Devon has over 86,000 in the over 80s category as well as 330 care homes, making it a huge task to ensure everyone is reached. There is now a mass vaccination centre in Exeter, as well as our own smaller version in Barnstaple. Some pharmacies are also beginning to deliver vaccines as well as our GPs, who are being prioritised for the vaccine as far as is practicable. But as the Minister responsible has said repeatedly, supply remains bumpy across the entire country.
There are enormous logistical challenges in rolling out the vaccine, particularly in a sparsely populated, rural location like North Devon. It is testament to the incredible work of our local GPs, NHS and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that by the end of this week, all our care homes and staff will have received their first vaccine, as well as the over 80s.
If you are in the over 80s group and have not heard anything to date, please do not contact your GP, but feel free to email your details to my office who will be collating this information and forwarding to the CCG to ensure no one is missed. Please include your name, address, GP details, date of birth and a contact telephone number to email@example.com.
In addition, if you are a retired doctor, nurse, or anyone who has previously administered injections and would like to volunteer, as this process is going to continue for many months to come, the application process for volunteering has been much simplified and you can sign up here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/join-the-nhs-covid-19-vaccine-team/ . At this time the rate of vaccination is being driven by availability of the vaccine, not staffing, but it is important that we are prepared for the longer term.
I recognise this is a very worrying time and the vaccine is the light at what has been a very long tunnel, but unfortunately whilst we continue to learn about the coronavirus, and how transmission amongst the vaccinated works, it is vital that even if you have had your first vaccine (or even your second) that you continue to follow the social distancing guidance in case you are still able to pass the vaccine on.
We continue to be well below the national average for cases of the virus, thanks to the hard work of everyone here in North Devon, but it will be some time before we are able to return to normal. I would like to reassure residents I continue to work for everyone here in North Devon. I am currently doing everything I can to expedite the reopening of our schools as well as secure levelling up funding, better broadband and additional support for our tourism and hospitality businesses.
We have seen unprecedented support for our tourism and hospitality businesses and combined with the reduction in VAT, business rate relief and of course the furlough scheme we have staved off many job losses and bankruptcies. Despite this we are in a precarious position and I continue to lobby for a continuation of much of the VAT cut and business rate relief, as well as additional support and for those individuals and businesses who have not been able to access some of the support schemes.
I do this through parliamentary channels, not through the prism of the media. I want results, good press is nice, but the results are what matters. We have seen the welcome investment into Barnstaple High Street, we are seeing an acceleration in our broadband rollout, particularly in Lynton and Lynmouth and just this week I and Suzanne Tracey, CEO of the Northern Devon Healthcare Trust met with the Secretary of State Matt Hancock to progress our new hospital. Other companies and organisations have received numerous grants from the Department of Transport for E-Scooter trials, from Innovate UK for regional supply hubs and artificial intelligence R&D. We have seen the Ilfracombe Watersports centre get funding (again) and the Link Road improvements are all moving forward as planned. We may be in a global pandemic but we are still moving forward and I continue to work to level up North Devon.
Please take care at this difficult time #HandsFaceSpace