This week, I was delighted to hear Cheltenham being specifically commended by the Prime Minister at the Downing Street press conference for its progress on the vaccine rollout. As the PM put it, Cheltenham has been "shooting the lights out".
I wasn’t entirely surprised. From my many discussions with front-line staff, and the daily feedback emails I get from constituents, it is clear they are doing a truly brilliant job. Thanks to strong organisation and exemplary local cooperation, 90% of our over-80s were vaccinated before the end of last week. I’m assured that the remainder can expect to be contacted shortly.
People in the next priority groups, including the over 70s are already being contacted. One primary care network has already jabbed all their over-75s since the rule changed at the weekend.
Cheltenham’s efforts have drawn praise too from Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, who this week met local PCNs by Zoom to express his thanks.
Nationwide, the rollout proceeds at pace. At the time of writing, 4.4m doses of the vaccine had been administered across the UK – by far the highest number per capita in Europe. This is not a competition, but it is remarkable that the UK has administered more doses than Germany, France, Italy and Spain combined.
The NHS in England is now vaccinating at a rate of around 140 people a minute. Crucially, that is faster than the rate of infection. Here in Gloucestershire we are on track to meet the national target of offering a first vaccine to everyone in the top 4 JCVI priority by 15 February.
The key limiting factor remains supply. Our professionals can administer whatever is produced, and the Oxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer teams are working hard to accelerate manufacture.
With a blend of science, organisation and compassion, we are slowly turning the tide. Three cheers for our doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and volunteers. Keep going. Our town is right behind you.