By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
More mass coronavirus vaccination centres are expected to open “imminently” across the county by the end of next week.
Around 40% of elderly residents in Kent have received the first dose of the Covid jab as three large-scale vaccine hubs are due to come on stream in the first week of February to bolster the rollout, including one in north Kent.
The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which oversees the local health system, remained tight-lipped about announcing any specific locations during a virtual meeting earlier today.
Paula Wilkins, the chief nurse at the CCG, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “There will be a mass vaccination centre serving the north part of Kent, which covers Gillingham and Rainham.”
She said an “imminent” announcement is expected over the next few days, adding: “Sites are being worked up and once they are confirmed we can publicise where they are going to be.”
This comes 24 hours after CCG chiefs indicated that three mass vaccine hubs will be set up in Gravesend, Maidstone and Thanet at Kent County Council’s (KCC) health scrutiny committee virtual meeting. This has not been confirmed but the Thanet site was revealed by The Isle of Thanet News last week.
If approved, these sites will have capacity for around 3,000 vaccines a day, according to the CCG.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed his government is looking to set up a mass vaccine site near the constituency of his Conservative MP colleague Rehman Chishti, who represents Gillingham and Rainham.
Kent’s first Covid vaccine hub opened at Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital on December 14. In the last month, this has “ramped up” to include four more hospitals and 69 GPs and community halls for the Pfzier or AstraZeneca jab.
On January 11, Mr Johnson said he aimed to have a first vaccine dose offered to everyone in the top four priority groups, including all care home residents and people aged over 70, 75 and 80, which is around 15 million people.
Latest figures show that 173,684 vulnerable residents in Kent received their first dose by January 24. The target is to inoculate 411,000 by mid-February.
Wilf Williams, CCG’s chief accountable officer, revealed 200,000 jabs have been delivered, but that includes people who have had a second dose.
At today’s CCG governing body virtual meeting, he said: “Pretty much all of our services are managing to squeeze out an extra dose from each vial, so we are doing well in terms of that.”
CCG bosses say that every resident will have access to a vaccine centre within a 10 mile radius by the end of the month, following the government’s pledge.
This comes amid concerns of lengthy travel for some elderly people, including some journeying 35 miles from the rural areas of Edenbridge, Sevenoaks, to a mass coronavirus vaccine centre at London’s former Nightingale Hospital.
Around 1.7million adults will need to be inoculated across the whole of Kent, including Medway. No clear timeline has been laid out for achieving this.
Patients are expected to receive a letter from the government advising them to attend their vaccine appointment.