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Residents react to East Kent Covid-19 vaccine delays

Additional reporting by Sam Williams

Residents in East Kent say that they are in an "unacceptable" position and being treated unfairly as their wait for a Covid-19 vaccine continues.

Pensioners in areas including Folkestone, Deal and Romney Marsh have been made to wait longer than anyone else in the county for large vaccine sites to open, despite being among the worst affected areas in England.

East Kent residents are having to wait for their Covid-19 vaccines
East Kent residents are having to wait for their Covid-19 vaccines

A total of three million doses of the Pfizer and Oxford/Astrazenica vaccines have been given out across the UK, of which 411,257 were in the South East.

This makes it making it the third most vaccinated region in the country behind the Midlands and the North East.

However, the Folkestone and Hythe District, which currently has the worst death rate in the country, currently only has one active major vaccination centre across its entire area - although more are coming next week.

While some vaccines are reportedly trickling out through GP surgeries, this is in stark contrast to other areas in the county, which sees Maidstone leading the way with six centres and Ashford with four.

Tony Cooper is chairman of the Ashford and Romney Marsh Breathe Easy Support Group, which provides support and information for people living with a lung condition.

Folkestone and Hythe has the worst death rate in England
Folkestone and Hythe has the worst death rate in England

He lives in St Mary's Bay, on Romney Marsh, which as of yet, does not have a centre for vaccinations. One is expected to be set up at Lydd Airport from next week.

Mr Cooper, who himself is listed as clinically extremely vulnerable, said: "In my view it seems the only people who have go their act together is the Oaklands Health Centre in Hythe.

"I've been informed they began planning for the vaccination roll out in November, and I know of a patient in Hythe who has already had their second jab.

"It seems to me when something happens or goes wrong, Romney Marsh is always at the back of the queue, and questions need to be asked why.

"There should be an inquiry as to why people in this area are at the back of the line for the vaccine, we're first in the country on rate of deaths, last in the queue for vaccinations.

Lydd Airport is being lined up as a vaccine centre. Picture: Paul Amos
Lydd Airport is being lined up as a vaccine centre. Picture: Paul Amos

"Older people and clinically vulnerable people, who are more at risk of being seriously ill or dying from Covid-19, should not be worrying about being left out. It is unacceptable."

There is a petition in Dover to open more centres in the area, after it emerged that out of the two that have already opened, only the one in Dover town will serve the general public.

The North Deal Community Company has offered health bosses the use of the group's Golf Road Centre.

James Bird, 81, says that the Deal area, where he lives, is being unfairly missed out compared to the surrounding area.

He said: "I think before Christmas we were in the fourth worst area in England for rates.

'How have they got their act together so much better than over here?..'

"I've had reams and reams of paper from the NHS telling me what I can and cannot do to protect myself, and now I'm in the first round of people ready to be vaccinated I haven't heard anything!

"I've heard that something has happened with the Dover medical centre but what about us in Deal and Walmer?

"We have a population of about 40,000 here, I think it's about 30,000 in Dover town.

"A contact of mine in Ickham (near Canterbury) has just been given her second dose. She's 70 and has no health issues that I'm aware of.

"I'm glad she's vaccinated but how have they got their act together so much better than over here?

Richard Sirot
Richard Sirot

"I wouldn't go so far as to say that I was scared, It just feels very unfair indeed."

Fellow Deal resident Richard Sirot, 73, echoed Mr Bird's sentiments over the difference in coverage for the area.

He said: "To quote Victor Meldrew 'I don't believe it'.

"This is despite the fact that local surgeries and pharmacists are willing and able to offer the service as well.

"I predict mayhem. Amongst other things, the local car park by the centre is going to overflow and people are going to be queuing outside in the cold."

Barbara Plumley .Picture: Paul Amos
Barbara Plumley .Picture: Paul Amos

However, not everyone is as concerned with the future.

Barbara Plumley, 81, from Folkestone, has been told she will receive the vaccine next month and says she is happy to wait for her turn.

She said: "I had a letter to say I might get the vaccine mid February. I'm vulnerable because I have asthma and heart failure.

"I know they're doing it at Hythe and talking about it at the Civic Centre.

"I'll just wait my turn, I think the police and paramedics should get it quickly, as they deal with the public."

Kent and Medway CCG says the vaccine roll-out across the county has been "a huge task".

A spokesman said: "We are confident that all eligible patients - which at this stage is those aged over 80 - will have access to the vaccine.

“People will be contacted directly with invitations to be vaccinated. Please avoid calling your GP unless you have had an invitation.”

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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