County ‘slow to get off the blocks’ as vaccine rates fall below target  

Jyoti Atr, the new director of public health

Jyoti Atr, the new director of public health, told the adults and health committee on June 24: “We were particularly slow to get off the blocks with vaccination”. - Credit: LDR

Urgent efforts are under way to get Cambridgeshire vaccinated as new figures reveal the county is falling below national targets. 

A ‘super weekend’ of vaccinations is planned for July 10/11 after the county council was told how Cambridgeshire had been “slow to get off the blocks”. 

The action comes on the back of figures showing Cambridge itself is further behind vaccine targets than the rest of the county. 

Jyoti Atr, the new director of public health, told the adults and health committee on June 24: “We were particularly slow to get off the blocks with vaccination. 

“Primary care networks were reluctant to start, they were concerned about pressures on primary care understandably. 

“It took some negotiation to get them up and running.  

“So, we were kind of behind from the very beginning. There has been much effort to try and increase the uptake”. 

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Primary care networks are each made up of a group of GP practices. 

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It took some time to reach agreement on how they would proceed with vaccination”.  

Ms Atri told the committee 72.4 per cent of people aged 18 and over in the county, excluding Peterborough, have received their first dose, and 58.1 per cent have received their second dose.  

In England, she said the average is 81.6 for first doses and 59.9 per cent for second doses.  

She said there is “a lot of variation across the districts” in Cambridgeshire, and “in particular we are concerned about Cambridge which has a rate of 53.4 for first dose and 32.2 for second dose. 

“And added to the picture of increasing rates of infection in Cambridge, that is of particular concern to us”, she said 

In Fenland, as of June 24, 77.3 per cent of the population had received both doses, and 59.1 per cent their first dose. 

The figures are comparable to East Cambridgeshire where 80 per cent have received both and 59.1 per cent their first dose. 

The Government’s Covid-19 data dashboard suggests the rate of cases per 100,000 people in Cambridge is more than six times what it was a month ago.  

The rate of people with at least one positive Covid-19 test in Cambridge over the past seven days has risen from 12.8 per 100,000 in Cambridge on May 18, to 80.1 on June 23.  

Ms Atri outlined some concerns about the ‘super weekend’, particularly around the availability of both the workforce and the vaccine itself.  

Conservative councillor Mark Goldsack asked for more detail on the suggestion that the county had been behind on the uptake of the vaccination programme.  

He said if the committee was to tell his local health centre in Soham that they have been behind “they would be extremely miffed at that comment”. 

He said: “They have been at the forefront and probably leading on numbers, so I think a generic comment across Cambridgeshire is probably ill advised in terms of getting our people to continue the good work that they are doing”.  

Ms Atri said she apologised “if you felt there was judgement being made”, adding “I have nothing but admiration for my primary care colleagues who have worked incredibly hard through the Covid experience”.  

Asked why vaccination rates are lower in Cambridge, she said the younger demographic is “part of the picture, it’s not the entire story.  

“I can’t explain, I don’t know exactly why it is so much worse than the other areas”.  

Chair of the committee, Labour councillor Richard Howitt, said: “Anti-vaxxers are deeply evil, wicked people, are threatening us all, and we have all got a personal direct responsibility and duty to speak out for vaccination”.  

Studies have found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be 96 per cent effective against hospitalisation after two doses, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca is 92 per cent effective. 

Cllr Howitt added: “If you are 18 or over the message is clear - get your jab.  

“This is not the time to be hesitant – this vaccine is the best way out of this crisis. 

“We are in a race against the Delta variant but we can win if people come forward and receive a jab.”