The best way to beat this virus, once and for all, is through the widespread vaccination of our population. I am therefore hugely encouraged by the speed at which the vaccine is being rolled out across Maidstone and The Weald; providing hope to our community after such a difficult year.
I pay tribute to the fantastic GPs who are leading these efforts at vaccination sites across our patch. Many of them are working every hour of the day and it is thanks to their dedication that the vast majority of my Constituents aged over 80, and many over 75s, have already received their first dose of the vaccine. Indeed, the Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in our area are on target to ensure everyone over 70, or who are extremely clinically vulnerable, will be offered a vaccine by the middle of February.
As with any programme of this size, there have been some teething problems. There was, for example, something of a slow start to vaccinations in The Weald, a serious challenge on which I have worked very closely with my colleague Greg Clark MP to correct. To that end Dr Faye Hinsley and her team from the Ridge PCN have stepped up to the plate brilliantly, and vaccinations are now being delivered with real pace at Headcorn Aerodrome; so much so that numbers in The Weald have now moved ahead of some other parts of Kent. I am delighted to hear that Dr Hinsley is confident they will reach all of those in the highest priority groups within the next couple of weeks.
Maidstone Hospital have also made extraordinary progress with their vaccination programme. They have focussed their efforts mostly on frontline NHS and Social Care professionals and in mid-January they delivered their 10,000th jab; a remarkable achievement.
In addition to the continued rollout of jabs at GP surgeries and at Maidstone Hospital, from this week a pharmacy vaccination site will open in central Maidstone and, from next week, a mass vaccination centre will go live at The Angel Centre in Tonbridge. Appointments for these sites can be made via the national vaccine booking service by people who have received a letter inviting them to make a booking.
Doubtless there will be some difficult weeks ahead but, thanks to the efficiency of the vaccine’s deployment, there is now a brightening light mercifully glowing at the end of the tunnel.