Our vaccination programme is expanding across South West London and we have now given over 238,000 vaccines cross 40 vaccination centres, including our 25 GP led centres, 8 hospital hubs, 4 pharmacy-led services and 3 large vaccination centres. With over 70% of vaccines delivered at primary care sites, GPs have been leading the way in vaccinating local people to make sure that we are on track to offer a vaccine to all over 70s and front-line health and care staff by Monday 15 February 2021.
We are now urging everyone aged 70 and over who hasn’t yet had an invitation for a vaccination to come forward and contact the NHS to book their jab through the national booking service (www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination) or by calling 119 free of charge between 7am and 11pm seven days a week. The national booking service allows people to book an appointment at their nearest large vaccination centre or pharmacy service. If a suitable and convenient slot is not available people can also call their GP practice.
We want everyone to receive the vaccine and to take it up when they are offered it. We are supporting residents from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities to get accurate and accessible information so they can feel confident to get the vaccine to protect themselves and their loved ones. However, we are aware from our local conversations as well as nationally and regionally published research that uncertainty around uptake will be down to multiple and complex factors. To support local people, we need to work together across the partnership with local authorities, voluntary and community partners to support our diverse communities in increasing confidence and enabling everyone to make informed choices for themselves and their families. Through conversations with health and care staff, local leaders and the wider community we want to make sure concerns are heard, myths are dispelled and information on the safety and benefits of vaccinations is shared.
It is important that we understand the specific difficulties that individual groups face and to be careful not to take a ‘one size’ fits all approach to engagement and addressing concerns. Therefore, we have worked through our Kingston and Richmond communications and engagement group which includes colleagues from Kingston Council to develop a local communication and engagement plan. The plan provides an outline on how we are engaging audiences and sharing information to build confidence in the vaccine with residents and health and social care staff. Please find attached your Kingston communications and engagement plan. As leaders in your community with close links to local people and networks, we are grateful for your support in helping to ensure that we reach and engage as many people as possible to ensure that no one is left behind.
As you may know, the South African variant of COVID-19 has been identified in nine areas of the UK, one of which is the Pollards Hill area in Merton. Although there is no evidence to show that this variant is more dangerous, having the vaccine when offered remains the best form of defence against COVID-19. As well as sharing messages from Merton council about access to enhanced testing, we are also encouraging residents in Merton and surrounding boroughs with a booked COVID-19 appointment to attend as planned. In addition, we are assuring them that vaccination sites have taken every precaution to keep them safe. If they have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms, and have a vaccination booked, we are asking them to please contact their GP to rearrange their appointment. In addition, we are reminding all residents that local NHS services remain open for them to seek medical help and advice. Further information about enhanced testing in Pollards Hill visit: https://www.merton.gov.uk/coronavirus/test/local-testing.