North East 'leading the way on vaccines' - but leaders warn of 'dangerous' conspiracy theories putting people off the jab
According to latest NHS figures, the North East and Yorkshire has vaccinated a higher percentage of over-80s than anywhere else in the UK – 83.7% by January 24.
And our area has delivered the third highest number of vaccinations overall, behind only the South East and the Midlands, with 1.3million doses between December 8 and January 31.
It comes as we run out Shot in the Arm campaign, calling for local pharmacies to be deployed as vaccine centres to bring the jabs closer to people’s doorsteps.
Local councils say they are working to combat misinformation and anti-vaxxer theories that have caused a “small number of people” to say no to a vaccine.
Sunderland, South Tyneside, Gateshead and Newcastle councils have been awarded almost £2million to help set up networks of ‘Community Champions’ spreading accurate information about vaccines to those at greatest risk – the elderly, the disabled, and BAME communities.
In a statement on Monday, leaders of the LA7 group of councils said: “Great progress is being made in our communities with the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, with many of those in the highest priority groups receiving at least their first dose. We are proud the North East is being recognised for leading the way.
“We know from feedback from those administering jabs at vaccination centres and care homes that the vast majority of people are taking up the offer of a free vaccine, and this is incredibly pleasing to see.
“Our community champions are working closely with wider communities and the small number of people who have declined the vaccine, to give them accurate information and counter some of the dangerous anti-vax stories circulating on social media and elsewhere.
“These vaccines are meticulously reviewed prior to approval to ensure their safety for use, and we would encourage people to have the vaccine when the time comes to make an appointment.
“Our sincerest thanks go to all health colleagues and the many volunteers who are working tirelessly to deliver this vaccination programme in order to protect our most vulnerable residents as quickly as possible, but we know it will take many more months before everybody is vaccinated.
“That is why we must continue to stay at home, and follow the Hands, Face, Space guidance at all times. Having the vaccine will mean people are far less likely to become seriously ill with Covid-19, but we do not yet know if it will prevent people from contracting the virus or spreading it to others.
“The vaccines are not a free pass to return to our normal routines and therefore we cannot afford any complacency and must continue to follow the rules at all times.”
They added that infection rates in the region are “going in the right direction”, continuing to fall gradually.
The average infection rate for the North East is now 238 new weekly cases per 100,000 people – below the England average of 260, and down from 455 in the first week of the third national lockdown.
Councils also warned people to beware of Covid scams, some of which are falsely asking for financial details or payment for a Covid vaccine.”
The statement was issued by the leaders of Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham councils – Nick Forbes, Martin Gannon, Glen Sanderson, Norma Redfearn, Tracey Dixon, Graeme Miller, Simon Henig.
It was also signed by North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness.