Up to half the available slots at two GP-run vaccination sites in Bedford aren’t being filled, a meeting heard.
Health and council leaders said there are a number of reasons why over 18s haven’t been filling slots – including confusion with bookings and a “sizeable number” declining it.
Dr John Kedward, who has been leading jabbing efforts at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara and King’s House, said they now have plenty of Pfizer jabs to give to younger people.
Dr Kedward, of Bedford Doctors on Call (Bedoc), said: “We’ve got the vaccine, we’ve got the vaccinators, we just don’t have the people coming forward.
“What we really want is to find a way of getting people in to get vaccinated.”
He said they can jab 960 people each day but as of Thursday (10 June) they have plenty of spare capacity.
On Thursday only 65 per cent of slots were taken up, yesterday (Friday) it was at 66 per cent and over the weekend it drops to 50 per cent on Sunday.
Payments to doctors are on a pay-per-jab basis but he said they are being underwritten by the NHS so they don’t have to close down.
Dr Vijay Nayar, one of Bedford Borough’s GPs, said: “There is a sizeable number who are declining the vaccine. We are working to get the numbers up.”
The local outbreak engagement board was updated on the state of the disease. They were told that the number of people in hospital with covid has increased to 14. But deaths are not rising.
Between 40 and 50 cases are being found each day, with the majority in young people aged 11-22 with rising rates among primary school ages.
Ian Brown, the borough’s chief officer for public health, said: “We have seen a surge in Kempston and that relates to a single primary school setting which has had a significant number of cases.”
After carrying out tests on 95 per cent of the children, the school re-opened on Tuesday.
Mr Brown also presented figures showing that people in older age groups appear to be protected from serious illness and death after vaccination.
Those who are being admitted to hospital wards are in a wide age range, he said.
“We have people in their 20s right through to older age.
“The majority of those are unvaccinated, a few have had a single dose and very rarely those who have had two doses of the vaccine.”
The majority of people who are hospitalised are unvaccinated but the jabs do not provide a 100 per cent guarantee of not getting ill.
Dr Nayar and other public health experts stressed the importance of having both jabs, because the first dose is less effective against the dominant Delta variant than it was against the Alpha variant.
Mayor Dave Hodgson (Lib Dem) urged over 18s to book a local vaccine by either visiting bedford.gov.uk/vaccinations or by calling 01234 718077.
First doses are available to all borough residents aged 18 and over, with no need to book today (Saturday) from 1pm to 7pm at Guru Nanak Temple, in Queens Park.
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter