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Kent Covid death toll passes 4,000 as only about 40% of top priority groups vaccinated

About 60% of people in the top four priority groups are yet to be vaccinated in Kent as the county's death toll passes 4,000.

New figures released this afternoon reveal nearly 240,000 people in Kent and Medway must receive jabs in the next 18 days if the government is to meet its target of vaccinating all those eligible by mid-February.

A large proportion of people in the top four priority categories in Kent are yet to receive their first Covid vaccine
A large proportion of people in the top four priority categories in Kent are yet to receive their first Covid vaccine

The news comes as Kent hospitals have reported a further 42 deaths today; 11 in east Kent, 23 in Maidstone, and eight in Medway.

The government pledged to vaccinate its top four priority groups - comprising care home residents, healthcare workers, those aged over 70, and the clinically extremely vulnerable - by February 15, as part of the NHS' biggest immunisation programme in history.

Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) estimates about 411,000 people in the county fall into these categories.

But figures released today by NHS England show the government is still a long way off its target.

As of January 24, only 173,684 people in the county had received their first dose of the vaccine.

This is only about 40% of the total number that must receive the jab, if the government's goal of vaccinating the top four priority groups is to be met by February 15.

In the county, around 103,000 under-80s, and about 70,000 people aged 80 and above have so far been inoculated.

About 21,600 of them have also received a second dose - meaning a total 195,252 doses of the vaccine have been administered, as of January 24.

With February 15 just 18 days away, an average of just over 13,000 people will need to be vaccinated per day in the county in order for the government to meet its target.

Kent's very first vaccine was handed out 45 days ago, when great-grandfather Kenneth Lamb became first in the county to receive the jab, at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

Vaccination efforts have been ramped up significantly in recent weeks.

This week, a new large-scale vaccination centre opened in an empty former Debenhams store in Folkestone.

A number of other new vaccination sites have opened in recent weeks - including a new centre specifically aimed at healthcare workers, which opened at the Kent Cricket's Spitfire Ground in Canterbury.

But concerns have been expressed over whether the supply of vaccines can keep up with demand.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale said he was "gravely concerned" about an apparent shortage of Covid vaccines in Kent. He said the government must ensure local primary care networks are adequately supplied, before rolling out more vaccination sites and offering jabs to those in lower age brackets.

Meanwhile, clinicians have also reported problems getting their hands on vaccines.

Leading Whitstable GP John Ribchester said supply chain problems remained the "single biggest challenge" for the vaccination programme, as he told how hundreds of coronavirus vaccine doses had been sent to the wrong GP practice, forcing appointments to be pushed back.

Speaking previously to KentOnline, he said he believed as 1,000 jabs could be administered per day at Whitstable Medical Practice.

“We’ve got the capability, but we haven’t got the vaccines,” he said. “We’re injecting everything we’re being given, and we want more.”

Responding to today's vaccination figures, NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group said staff are working flat out in a bid to reach the "ambitious" target.

A spokesman said: "NHS vaccination teams across Kent and Medway have been making good progress, with services ramping up in recent weeks. We are working extremely hard to vaccinate everyone in the top four priority groups by mid-February.

“We now have 39 GP-led services covering all areas, and with the AstraZeneca vaccine allowing us to move vaccine to other places another 35 GP teams are starting to arrange local clinics.

“A large vaccination centre opened in Folkestone this week with another coming next week. Pharmacy services are also opening, with a Sevenoaks service starting today and more opening on Saturday and next week.

“To vaccinate health and care staff we also have seven sites in hospitals and community health centres.

“It is an ambitious target but everyone involved in the vaccination programme is working flat out to achieve it. The figures published today are up to January 24 so are already some way beyond these numbers.”

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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