Leeds 'punished' for Covid vaccine success as supplies diverted down south
Leeds is being punished for its successful Covid-19 vaccine rollout, regional leaders have said, after it was revealed that supplies of the vaccine could be diverted from Yorkshire to regions that have failed to vaccinate as many people.
NHS England would not confirm reports that supplies to GP practices in the region would be halved in order to help areas like London, which are further behind in their vaccination efforts, however it did say “targeted deliveries” to those areas were being made.
According to the latest data released yesterday, a total of 67 per cent of people aged 80 and over in the North East and Yorkshire had received one dose of the vaccine, the highest rate in England, and a further 12 per cent had received two doses in the week to 17 January.
However, these figures disguised regional variation as areas in the North East were far ahead of Yorkshire.
For example, West Yorkshire and Harrogate had vaccinated 64 per cent of over-80s with one dose and a further 13 per cent with two.
Leeds MP Fabian Hamilton said: “Yorkshire should not be punished for its success in rolling out the vaccine quicker than other regions.
“The Health Secretary should have ensured parity in supply from the beginning of the vaccination programme.
“Since the first vaccine was approved, our wonderful doctors, nurses and pharmacists, bolstered by thousands of dedicated volunteers, have done an excellent job in protecting the most vulnerable from this virus and it would be shameful to slow them down now.”
Dr Richard Vautrey, a Leeds GP and British Medical Association GP committee chair, said the Government needed to be "far more honest and transparent" about vaccine supplies and to provide clear justification about where they were being sent.
He said: "Of course we need widespread coverage across the country, but it's incredibly frustrating for practices who have had such a high success rate so far, with lists of patients waiting, to have no certainty around future supplies - and even had planned supplies reduced - especially when they see mass vaccination centres continuing to be rolled out."
Clinical Commissioning Groups in the region said they had no part in the decision and could not confirm how local areas would be affected.
Jon Trickett, Labour MP for Hemsworth, said he understood the need to boost London but that it should not come at the expense of Yorkshire.
“Why do we have to be held back? I don’t get it,” he said.
“Once again, the north has excelled and once again the north is being punished for problems in the south.”
He called for the release of data showing how many vaccines had been delivered in each local area.
“I don’t believe we’re that far ahead. There are patches within Yorkshire that will have fallen behind and this will mean they fall even further behind.”
Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, Dan Jarvis said: “Our NHS and Primary Care staff are working hard to protect and vaccinate our communities.
“They must not be punished for their success, otherwise people in Yorkshire will rightly feel this is deeply unfair.
“Ministers must pull out all the stops to ensure progress is not derailed and ensure all parts of the country have the resources and supply they need to vaccinate Britain.”
The most recent figures for the week up to 17 January showed that the South West had overtaken the North East and Yorkshire for vaccinating the largest percentage of the population.
In the South West, 7,371 vaccines per 100,000 people were delivered compared with 7,192 per 100,000 in the North East and Yorkshire. At the bottom end of the scale, London delivered only 4,199 vaccines per 100,000 people.
Speaking in the Commons today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The challenge to supply is, essentially, that we have a lumpy supply.”
And he said while manufacturers were “working incredibly hard to deliver the supply as fast as possible”, he added: “It is challenging and therefore it isn’t possible to give certainty as far out as many GPs and those delivering on the ground would like – because the worst thing would be to give false certainty.”
Asked directly about the situation in Yorkshire, Mr Hancock said: “We’ve got to make sure that vaccination is fair right across the UK and some parts of the country, including parts of the North East and Yorkshire, have gone really fast early on, which is terrific.
“And we do have to make sure the vaccination programme is there everywhere, so everyone in the top four groups can receive that offer of a vaccine by the 15th of February. We will deliver on that.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “All available vaccine doses are being delivered to vaccination sites and every GP-led vaccination site is receiving a delivery this week.
“To ensure all of those people in the top priority groups can get vaccinated quickly, targeted deliveries are being made to areas where there are more people left to vaccinate in the priority cohorts.”