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Covid vaccines: Kent and Medway still 'long way off' government's February 15 target

New figures show the government remains a long way off its target of vaccinating its four top priority groups by mid-February.

Just over 107,000 people have now been vaccinated against Covid-19 in Kent and Medway - roughly a quarter of the total number that must receive the jab for the goal to be met in 24 days.

Kenneth Lamb was the first person in Kent to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Picture: EKHUFT
Kenneth Lamb was the first person in Kent to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Picture: EKHUFT

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 published by NHS England yesterday show the county is still far off this 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.

Since then, just over 107,000 people in the county have received their first dose of the vaccine as of January 17 - with about 20,000 having received a second dose.

For both the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines to achieve full efficacy recipients must have two jabs. Initially the plan was to give both three weeks apart but that has now been extended to 12 weeks in order to immunise more people.

And with just 24 days to go until the government's February 15 target, hundreds of thousands of people in the top four priority groups in Kent are yet to receive their first jab.

Vaccination efforts have been ramped up in recent weeks.

A new large-scale vaccination centre is set to open in an empty former Debenhams store in Folkestone from Monday.

A number of other new vaccination sites have already 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.”

A spokesman for Kent and Medway CCG said: "Our local capacity has been ramping up in recent weeks and more services are starting soon. It's an ambitious target but one the local NHS is working extremely hard to meet. Everyone will get their vaccine. We're now some way beyond the published weekly figure which was for last Friday."

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