During Monday the way this story has been reported in the Times changed significantly.
It started under the headline “Full speed ahead with vaccination of over-70s”, by evening the bullish tone of this article had changed to the more reflective:
“Don’t forget last of the over-80s in vaccine queue, says minister“
Owl had spent the day collecting anecdotal accounts from over 80s some who have been vaccinated and quite a few who haven’t been contacted yet.
At the beginning of January Owl posted the following estimates of the numbers eligible for vaccination in the most vulnerable groups in East Devon:
17,322 care home staff and residents, frontline healthcare workers and over-80s.
11,738 over-70s and clinically vulnerable
Last night on BBC Spotlight the Clinical Director of the Woodbury, Exmouth and Budleigh (WEB) Primary Care Network, which covers 10 GP practices spoke. The reporter indicated that so far around two thirds of the 9,000 over 80s had been vaccinated. So there is still a queue to get through before moving to the next group, reflecting the high proportion of the elderly in East Devon.
Axminster’s over 80s, however, should be vaccinated by the weekend according to Axminster Nub news.
Owl’s take on the change in tone in the National Press is that this is another example of mixed messages coming from the government, tarnishing what is fundamentally a good news story.
Is Boris the culprit?
www.thetimes.co.uk “Don’t forget last of the over-80s in vaccine queue, says minister“
Four million people have now been vaccinated against Covid amid confusion over which areas will begin immunising over-70s.
A cabinet minister has complained that unvaccinated over-80s will be left distressed and annoyed as younger people are called for jabs, as Boris Johnson defended starting on over-70s while hundreds of thousands of older people remain unprotected.
GPs who have already vaccinated their older patients will now be allowed to move on to over-70s, but many are complaining that their vaccine supplies are being diverted elsewhere.
It remains unclear whether areas that still have large numbers of over-80s to reach should start on younger patients. Officials said it would be a clinical judgment, with no precise threshold set for how many over-80s need to be vaccinated before jabs can go to younger people.
Along with over-80s and care home residents, NHS and care staff are part of an initial priority group covering 6.7 million people. Another 5.6 million people in their seventies and the clinically extremely vulnerable became eligible from today.
During a visit to Oxfordshire, the prime minister said: “We’re getting it out as fast as we can, four million done so far, I think we’ve done more than half of the over-80s, half of the people in care homes, the elderly residents of care homes.
“Those groups remain our top priority, they’re an absolute priority for us, but it’s right as more vaccine comes on stream to get it into the arms of the other groups on the JCVI [joint committee on vaccination and imminisation] list.”
Mr Johnson said that “the pace of the rollout is very encouraging” but played down prospects of easing restrictions while the NHS is still under huge pressure.
“You can’t just open up in a great open sesame a great bang because I’m afraid the situation is still pretty precarious, as people can tell,” he said.
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minster, insisted that only areas that have vaccinated the majority of over-80s should be offering jabs to younger people. However, the government did not say how many areas have vaccinated more than half of over-80s.
Speaking on LBC Radio, Mr Zahawi told over-80s who had not yet been vaccinated: “Don’t worry, we’re only really doing the over-70s in areas where they’ve reached the majority of the over-80s. So you will get a call, you will get a letter and you will be offered that vaccine and you will be protected by mid-February.”
Mr Zahawi praised areas such as Cockermouth in Cumbria, Yateley in Hampshire and parts of the Cotswolds which have vaccinated more than 90 per cent of their over-80s.
GP centres which started in the first wave in mid-December and have local venues more suitable for mass vaccination have found it easier to move faster, and rural areas doing well say that enthusiastic staff and volunteers have also proved invaluable. Some such areas started over-70s last week, but have complained that their vaccines supply has been diverted to areas that have moved more slowly.
Each GP centre has been managing the process in its own way and Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, raised concerns about allocation in her Suffolk Coastal constituency this morning.
“Something is not quite working right yet though, particularly in one part of the constituency, as I am hearing from people in part of the area that 80+ and 90+ year olds have not been contacted while some 70+ patients in the same GP practice were invited for vaccination,” she wrote on Facebook.
“I know it is both distressing and annoying when people hear that other cohorts of a lower priority (according to the JCVI) are being vaccinated ahead of our oldest and most vulnerable.”
She later said on Twitter that she had since been assured that letters and messages would go out today to all over-80s in the area who have not been contacted.
Asked about her comments, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “we continue to make the vaccines available and distributed equally across England and the UK. That will remain the case. But in some areas where they have already vaccinated the majority of those four high-risk groups, we want to ensure we maintain momentum and continue to rollout the vaccine to more and more people who are at higher clinical risk — that’s why we sent out the letter to the over-70s.”
He said that “depending on where they are, the timing will be slightly different but the important point is that this allows areas that have already vaccinated a majority of those over 80, care home residents, frontline NHS and care home staff to keep the momentum up and to start giving it to further-at-risk people.”………