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“Urgent action” needed to improve vaccination progress in Knowsley

by Gemma Melling

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council and Chair of Knowsley’s Outbreak Management Board has today (Wednesday, 16 June, 2021) put on record the Board’s concerns over the progress of the vaccine roll out within the borough.

Whilst just over 67% of eligible residents have received their first dose vaccine in Knowsley, data shows that within the borough the percentage of the total population vaccinated is less than in other areas of Merseyside and Cheshire – and this gap appears to be widening. Given how hard Knowsley has been hit in previous waves of the pandemic and the presence of the Delta variant, this is a considerable concern.

Today, Cllr Morgan in his capacity as Chair of the Outbreak Management Board has formally written to Knowsley Clinical Commissioning Group – that is responsible for the vaccine roll out with the borough – to ask for urgent action to roll out – at pace – vaccine provision for ALL eligible cohorts.

Specifically, the Board has stated that:

  • As a minimum, it expects there to be a vaccination site with extended opening hours in Halewood, Huyton, Kirkby, and Prescot and for these sites to be accessible by anyone who is eligible to be vaccinated. These sites should aim to maximise the uptake of both the first and the second doses of the vaccination and seek to reduce the current variation in uptake between GP practices in the borough.
  • These main sites must be supplemented by pop-up sites targeted at “hotspots” of low uptake and areas with poor public transport accessibility (such as Northwood, Page Moss, and Stockbridge Village). Pop-up sites also be located at large employers within the borough. The location and frequency of the pop-up sites should be agreed with the council and must be flexible so as to be able to respond to emerging developments.
  • It requires Knowsley Clinical Commissioning Group to work with the council to decide how best now to target this harder to reach cohort (e.g. proactive calls aimed at addressing key concerns to barriers and accessibility).

Knowsley Council has confirmed its continued willingness to work with the CCG to identify additional sites for centres and ensure their locations and opening times meet the needs of the local community. The council will also continue to push forward with communications and engagement with its residents to ensure they understand the importance of the getting vaccinated.

The Outbreak Management Board is calling for these new arrangements to be agreed by the end of this week (Friday, 18 June 2021) so that a plan can be in place by the end of next week (Friday, 25 June 2021) and the facilities can be in place by 30 June 2021.

Cllr Morgan commented: “Since the vaccination programme began, we have worked closely with the CCG and offered whatever support we possibly can to get the vaccine out to our communities. We pushed hard to be able to use the vaccine bus to get to our harder to reach residents and are willing to support in any way we can to  protect as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

“We monitor vaccination data on a weekly basis and for a number of weeks my Board colleagues and I have expressed concerns to the CCG that we appear to be falling behind other areas in terms of the percentage of people being vaccinated. This is simply not something we can ignore.

“We know how important the vaccine is in our fight against COVID and we also know from previous experience that when rates rise here, they do so incredibly quickly. With the Delta variant already in circulation we have to act fast.

“Specifically, we are concerned about the reduction in vaccination centres within the borough itself. We have always said that as a local council we will offer whatever support we can to the CCG but we need to be able to influence the roll out where we feel it doesn’t meet the needs of our community.”

In a direct letter to Dr Andrew Pryce, Chair of Knowsley Clinical Commissioning Group, the Outbreak Management Board has expressed concern about the local provision for cohorts 10-12 (people aged 18-49 years old). There are currently only three sites catering for this group across Knowsley and all three sites are located in Huyton and Whiston. With car ownership in Knowsley amongst the lowest in the Liverpool City Region, this is clearly an issue.

The Board highlights evidence from other health interventions (such as screening) clearly shows that easy accessibility is a key factor in providing health protecting interventions.

All of the issues raised within the correspondence are set against the context that even before the pandemic Knowsley’s communities already experienced significant health inequalities.

Cllr Morgan added: “We have to fight for our communities to receive the support and interventions that will really make a difference to their lives. This work is crucial, and I very much hope I can count upon the support of the Clinical Commissioning Group to improve performance for the benefit of our communities.”