Ipswich MP praises fast coronavirus vaccine roll-out

Doctor Parikh with the Pfizer vaccine, which is being rolled out at Constable Country Medical Practice.  

The coronavirus vaccine is being rolled out in Suffolk - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Last Saturday, Her Majesty The Queen was vaccinated at Windsor Castle, joining the over 80s in the first phase of the roll-out of vaccines for the elderly.

This comes after the approval last Friday of the Moderna vaccine, which joined the already approved Pfizer-BioNTech and our own Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

More than 3million people have now been vaccinated with their first dose, marking a strong start to the largest vaccination effort in in NHS history. The last time I checked, this was more than the rest of Europe combined.

Initially, Ipswich Hospital didn't receive the Pfizer vaccine due to inadequate storage facilities, but this has now been rectified and it is now currently administering the vaccine.

A patient receives a coronavirus vaccine dose at Two Rivers Medical Centre in Ipswich

Patients have been receiving the coronavirus vaccine across the county - Credit: Archant

The rapid approval of the Oxford vaccine, which can be stored between 2C and 8C, has meant we no longer have to rely on big super-freezers in hospitals to administer the jabs.

Instead, the jabs can be delivered in local venues in the community, such as sports halls and also in care homes. And that is exactly what is beginning to happen in Ipswich.

This Friday, I am visiting the Trinity Park Conference Centre which will house one of the vaccination hubs for our town, delivering doses from Saturday, alongside the Two Rivers Medical Centre and the Ivry Street Medical Practice. Gainsborough Sports Centre should be operating at the end of the month.

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Just over a month ago, I visited Aqua Pharmacy in Duke Street. Staff there informed me that they were hoping to be approved to administer the vaccine themselves.

I wrote a letter in support and I’m very pleased that shortly they will also become part of the vaccination efforts in town. I will be paying a second visit to Aqua Pharmacy after my visit to Trinity Park to learn more about the various preparations that have been taking place.

A number of pharmacies up and down the country have been keen to be part of the vaccination efforts and I think that there is an argument to be made that the government could have been more active in facilitating this - but I’m glad Aqua Pharmacy has been given approval.

This is great news for Ipswich and I hope that it won’t be long until all Ipswich residents over the age of 80 will have been offered the vaccine, with the over-75s, the medically vulnerable, and the over-70s soon following.

I have been talking to a number of constituents this week about when they will receive the vaccine and my advice is to wait to be contacted by the NHS – they have been working flat out to deliver the jabs, so you don’t have to do anything until they tell you that it is your turn.

On another note about being able to now set up hubs in the community, I was contacted this week by the headmaster of Ipswich School, who has offered its sports complex to host vaccinations for education workers.

This is something I am very keen on and I have been liaising with Public Health England and the vaccines minister to encourage them to make the most of this generous offer. I also raised the matter directly with the education secretary during the Education Select Committee this week.

The reason I am so enthusiastic about this, and have spoken publicly about it on a number of occasions, is because I think that it is of vital importance that teachers are prioritised so that we can get our schools up and running again as soon as possible.

I am incredibly concerned about the effects that school shutdowns are having on the attainment of pupils in Ipswich, particularly amongst the students from the most deprived backgrounds.

It is not surprising that the attainment gap is widened when students from the best schools and wealthy backgrounds are able to study with space and free and easy access to the internet, in contrast to those from lower incomes who rely on the resources of schools and the encouragement of their teachers.

However, with the increases in cases it is absolutely vital that any school openings take place when the environment is safe, with teachers protected.

The proposal from Ipswich School is welcome, because it would facilitate this while not detracting from the efforts already set up to deliver jabs to the elderly and most vulnerable.

I am glad that Ipswich, compared to other areas, now looks to be really well served with regards to vaccination centres and I think that people will agree that we can much more clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic.

The UK is currently fourth in the world rankings for vaccination doses administered per 100 people after the UAE, Bahrain and Israel, which has vaccinated 24 in every 100 people. We are also weeks ahead of the rest of Europe in delivering the end to this pandemic with the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, which is developed here, being the most sold vaccine worldwide.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt is pleased to see an end to the national lockdown - but warned: 'This isn't the end of the struggle.'...

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has praised the roll-out so far - Credit: Archant

It is likely that the Oxford vaccine will be the one that is distributed to relieve poorer countries from the virus. All of this is testament to the UK’s great scientists and dedicated healthcare workers and is something I think we can be immensely proud of.

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