Philip Dunne MP for the Ludlow constituency today confirmed his understanding of the rollout of the COVID vaccination programme in South Shropshire.
In a statement released today he confirmed:
“South East Shropshire Primary Care Network was chosen to pilot community vaccination some two weeks before Christmas as soon as the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine became available. This has gone well with strong cooperation and support from all nine GP practices and a majority of residents over 80s are expected to have received their first dose vaccine by this weekend.
The vaccination programme in the South West Shropshire Primary Care Network area around Ludlow has been underway with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for those in Priority Group 1 (care homes and NHS staff) sequentially since 2nd January.
I am assured by NHS leaders in Shropshire that the programme for Priority Group 2 (over 80s) will commence on 25th January as supplies of the vaccine become available. Vaccination pods will open at Ludlow Racecourse and local residents across South West Shropshire will be contacted by their medical practice by email or letter to be offered a date and time to attend. Please do not contact your GP, they will contact you.
If vaccine supplies are maintained as planned, the programme is expected to complete all care homes in South Shropshire by the end of next week, all Priority Group 2 (over 80s) by the end of January and all Priority Group 3 (over 75s) and Priority Group 4 (over 70s and clinically extremely vulnerable) by mid-February.
I know there has been frustration that vaccines have not been deployed earlier. This has been due to logistical challenges in supplying the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine to such a large and sparsely populated geography as the whole of South West Shropshire through a single hub. As more vaccine becomes available and with the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine requiring less challenging handling practices, it is now possible to deploy with all the very willing vaccinators and volunteers from the GP surgeries and others in the area.
GP practices will be in a position to administer the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine much like they do the flu vaccine, since it can be transported more readily and has a shelf life of 6 months in a fridge whereas the Pfizer BioNTech has only a few days use following removal from freezer storage at -70C which made it very difficult to deploy for mass vaccination in a rural setting.
I also have to add that there has been some most unhelpful commentary and speculation suggesting the vaccines would not be available to reach the top four Priority Groups until the end of March. I have been assured by NHS leaders in Shropshire responsible for the vaccination programme that this is wrong and inappropriately misleading for local residents. I am appalled to learn that anyone should be stoking anxiety by spreading such ill informed speculation at this difficult time.”