A vaccination chief told a meeting that Bedford’s GPs had “more vaccine than patients” this week as some over 50s have proven ‘hard to reach”.
Bedford GPs have so far vaccinated 47,000 of the 60,000 borough residents to have received coronavirus jabs.
That includes about 70 per cent of the borough’s over 50s cohort, councillors heard.
But Dr John Kedward, of Bedford Doctors on Call (Bedoc), said whereas they had vaccinated 5,500 people last week, this week it has dropped to just over 1,000. That’s despite numerous phone calls and emails.
“We haven’t managed to book many patients this week, so we are in the situation of having more vaccines than patients,” said Dr Kedward. They started offering jabs to people in cohort 10 to help use stocks.
Bedford Council’s local outbreak engagement board heard that cohort 1-9 “stragglers” don’t have much time to decide to book their jabs before the local GP service moves into top gear to provide second doses.
They’ve started ramping up second doses, and in some cases moving to an 11 week gap between jabs instead of 12.
Dr Kedward said they would continue to fit people in wherever possible.
But he added: “If you are hesitant you need to make a decision now before the programme tips into giving second doses. You can’t hang on forever.”
The meeting heard that there could be a number of reasons why they couldn’t get hold of some people.
These include those living abroad or elsewhere and so-called “ghost patients” who should be removed from patient lists.
Others may have had their jabs at mass vaccination centres which are run by a different part of the NHS.
Dr Kedward said he thinks the number of people refusing the jab is “quite small” and they are continuing to persuade people who think the jabs are not safe.
The council’s chief officer for public health, Ian Brown, told the meeting that he is “cautiously optimistic” about Bedford’s overall situation.
The borough is recording continued falls in the number of deaths, and the rate of 34.6 infections per 100,000 people is the lowest since September last year.
There are now a handful of people at Bedford Hospital with the infection.
Mr Brown urged children and parents to continue to test over the school holidays.
Religious organisations have asked the Borough about opening up services during Easter and Ramadan.
Mr Brown said services were not banned but his advice was for them not to hold them.
“If they are going against our advice, they should do it as safely as possible,” he said.
But Mayor Dave Hodgson urged a tougher line. “Our advice is don’t. Case rates are still high and we want to stop a third wave,” he said.
Lib Dem group leader Cllr Christine McHugh (Goldington) said Easter and Ramadan are very important.
She said she thinks actions such as “kissing the cross” are “foolish” in the circumstances.
“I hope they won’t promote that kind of thing.”
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter