A leaflet will be going to homes across the borough this weekend in a ramping up of efforts to encourage people to take their Covid-19 (coronavirus) jabs.
Figures shown to a meeting this week showed a wide gap is opening up between the jab haves and the jab nots, with take up lowest in some ethnic minority groups and in areas of higher deprivation.
Health chiefs told a meeting that some of the differences can be accounted for by variations in the age differences.
But Bedford Council’s local outbreak board yesterday (Thursday) heard that vaccination rates in Queens Park, Cauldwell, Castle and Kingsway were between 22 and 26 per cent.
But in Brickhill, Risely, Sharnbrook and Putnoe the rates are 45 and 47 per cent.
The board heard that health chiefs are stepping up efforts to get the message across to “hard to reach” communities.
These include younger people who do not watch the news and have been picking up misinformation from social media.
Michelle Summers, associate director of communications at the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes clinical commissioners said a leaflet would be delivered to households in Bedford this weekend.
“It will direct people to credible sources of information,” she said.
Local GP Dr Vijay Nayer said he was worried that vaccine hesitancy is highest among people who suffer most.
“We need to tackle this,” he said.
So far, he said the vaccination programme had been a “phenomenal” success but some people were worried about possible side effects while others were waiting to see how things go. And others don’t believe the vaccines are safe.
Faith leaders have been brought in to encourage people from black and south Asian communities to have the jab.
Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur) said: “Women have particular reasons, focusing on fertility, that are deterring some people from coming forward for the vaccine.”
Health chiefs are looking for people from those communities to talk to black and south east Asian women and provide “trusted voices”.
The meeting received a double dose of positive news.
Dr John Kedward, of Bedford doctors on call (Bedoc) reported that they are on track to complete the first nine cohorts by the third week in March.
And Ian Brown, the borough’s public health chief, said the daily case rates are now consistently falling.
The number of deaths is also dropping fast, down from 25 to 15 in the last two weeks, and the number of people in hospital with covid has plunged.
Data on the impact of a full return to schools is yet to come through.
Cllr Graeme Coombes (Cons, Wilshamstead) asked what will happen if people’s behaviour starts to change on April 12 when the next stage of releasing lockdown is due.
Mr Brown said: “If in a month we have concerns we won’t hesitate to offer more cautious advice than the national messaging.
“If people see it as a green light to meet indoors, that’s when there is a risk.”
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter