This update was circulated around Council staff on Friday 29 January 2021 and is from Caron Walker, Assistant Director, Adult Public Health Improvement
This week I was saddened to hear that we had reached over 100,000 deaths in the UK from COVID-19. Some of these people are our own staff or friends or family of staff; like many of us, I’ve lost family close to me. We know that 88% of the people who have died were either over 80, residents in care homes or those who provide frontline health and social care to these people who are most at risk. This is why the NHS vaccination programme is absolutely critical in the fight against the pandemic and why these are the people who have been identified as the first priority groups for the vaccination. You can read more about these groups and how they were identified here.
The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Calderdale is currently lower compared with other local authorities, but the figures are still too high and much higher than they were over the summer. Whilst we have seen some reduction in numbers over the last couple of weeks, numbers have started to creep up again this week and it is apparent that although people are generally supporting the restrictions, we still have a long way to go.
It is good news that the vaccination programme has now started. However, as there are some limitations around vaccine delivery, we have to prioritise those who are most vulnerable to the infection due to age or underlying conditions. Vaccination has now taken place in all of Calderdale’s care homes and a large percentage of our over 80s residents have also received the vaccination. The next in line are the people in the 75-80 age group and people who are considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’.
Frontline health and social care workers who provide direct and care support to high-risk adults have been identified as a priority group for the vaccination, as they are at increased personal risk of exposure to infection and of transmitting that infection to people who are high risk and face vulnerabilities in health and social care settings. As the vaccination is rolled out to our frontline staff, we must keep in mind the key purpose of the programme, which is to prevent death and serious illness.
All of our staff are important and are valued, and the decision of which staff get the vaccination first is based on the principal of protecting people who are most vulnerable, following the national JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination & Immunisation) guidance, rather than on supporting our critical staff, key workers or business continuity. The vaccination programme is not aimed at reducing transmission of the infection because, as yet, there is little evidence that the vaccine would achieve these aims. Frontline staff who care for and protect our most vulnerable people in Calderdale have already started to have the vaccination and we will contact further staff when it is their turn, based on the key goal to save lives.
As we do not yet know enough about transmission of COVID-19 in people who have been vaccinated, the advice is that everybody should continue to follow the national guidance of staying 2m apart from people who are not in your household, wearing a mask indoors in public places to protect others and washing your hands regularly.
I want to assure you that we will continue to prioritise those at greatest risk of dying and becoming seriously ill, and the workforce that care for them. The multi-agency Calderdale JCVI Group will recommend the sequencing of groups for vaccination in line with JCVI guidance. This is now being led by myself as the Council’s overall lead for the vaccination programme. From within the Council, the mobilising of the vaccination programme to our workforce is being led by our Testing and Vaccination Co-ordination Group, which is led by Andrew Pitts.