This week I met with the Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi, along with other Kent MPs and representatives from the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group to discuss the delivery of the COVID vaccine in Kent. The government’s target is that everyone over the age of 70, and all those who are considered to be the most vulnerable, should have been offered and received the vaccine by the 15th of February. I was pleased to see that we are well on track to meet that target in the Folkestone and Hythe constituency.
The vaccines programme is being delivered from three GP led hubs at Lydd Airport, Oaklands surgery in Hythe, and the Civic Centre in Folkestone. In addition to that we have the mass vaccination centre for east Kent, based at Folca, the former Debenhams store in Folkestone. Last week, a further vaccination centre opened at the Old School building, in Church Lane, New Romney. This new centre is being led by Tayo Bella, who runs the New Romney Pharmacy in the town’s High Street. This is an excellent location and a great initiative to establish this centre for patients on Romney Marsh. I would also like to thank the Mayor of New Romney, Cllr Paul Thomas, and Jon Wilson, Chief Executive of the Romney Marsh Community Support Hub, for their support for the creation of this new centre. The East Kent Hospitals Trust has also confirmed this week that since early December, its teams at the William Harvey hospital and more recently at the Kent County Cricket ground at Canterbury have vaccinated more than 20,000 NHS, social care and care home staff, including more than 8,000 staff working in hospitals, as well as almost 2,100 priority patients. This has been a fantastic effort so far, as part of a world leading vaccination programme across the UK. It has been made possible by a remarkable team of people, starting with the research and production centres that created and tested the vaccine, through to the people within the government who procured the supplies, as well as the health care teams and volunteer supporters who have delivered it in the community.
We have also seen more positive news this week on the infection and hospitalisation rates from COVID. At the time of writing this column, in the Folkestone and Hythe constituency the rolling seven-day average infection rate is at its lowest level since the 12th of November 2020 and is firmly set on a downward path. East Kent Hospitals Trust has also confirmed that it is currently caring for 179 COVID positive patients in its hospitals, down from a daily peak of 443 in early January. There is still much more to do, but this represents good progress. With the delivery of the vaccine to the most vulnerable groups in society, we should also expect hospitalisation rates to fall further. The clear benefit from the vaccine is that it protects people from developing COVID-19 symptoms that would require hospital treatment.