North Yorkshire’s plateauing vaccination rates have been raised as a concern by health officials as all remaining Covid legal restrictions come to an end.
A meeting of the North Yorkshire Outbreak Management Advisory Board today heard that while vaccine take up has been “pretty good” across the county, more than 41,000 people have yet to receive a first dose.
That represents around 10% of the population – and areas in Harrogate and Scarborough have been highlighted as lagging behind.
Sue Peckitt, chief nurse at the NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group, told today’s meeting: “We continue to offer vaccines as an evergreen offer and have been running a number of pop-up sites across the locality including in Harrogate, Scarborough and other areas where we have had very little take up.
“We are now putting out a plea that if those people still want their vaccine, we have plenty available.”
She added: “We recently ran a pop-up clinic in Eastfield in Scarborough and had two people attend all day. And two weekends ago we ran another for two days in Harrogate and received 24 people for vaccination.
“We are just not having people come forward now.”
Ms Peckitt said vaccine take up was lowest amongst 18 to 29-year-olds, followed by 30 to 39-year-olds.
Her plea comes as some of the county’s vaccination centres have announced plans to close – including Harrogate’s Great Yorkshire Showground which will shut in March.
Vaccines are now being redirected to pharmacies and GP surgeries where an additional booster dose will be offered to all adults over-75 and the most vulnerable over-12s this spring.
An autumn booster programme, aimed at a wider group of people, is also planned later this year.
Pharmacies and GP surgeries will also be used to vaccinate children aged five to 11 from April.
This extension of the rollout comes after months of deliberation over the benefits and risks before official scientific advice concluded the move would help protect the “very small” number of children who become seriously ill with Covid.
As of today, all remaining legal Covid restrictions in England have been removed as part of the prime minister’s “Living with Covid” plan.
It means people who test positive are no longer legally required to self-isolate, although they are still advised to do so.
The decision has come as a surprise to some health officials who have questioned what the changes will do to the spread of the virus.
North Yorkshire’s weekly infection rate is currently at 412 cases per 100,000 people – its lowest level since mid-December.
Dr Victoria Turner, public health consultant at North Yorkshire County Council, described this as a “much improved” picture at today’s Outbreak Management Advisory Board meeting.
She also said although many people will have some immunity from vaccines or previous infection, people should still be cautious about the virus now all restrictions have ended.
Dr Turner said: “There is a very high proportion of the population that will have a degree of immunity, whether through vaccination, direct exposure to the virus or both.
“What that doesn’t mean though is you are therefore immune from getting the virus again.”