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Matt Hancock applauds the community spirit in Haverhill - where 97 per cent of over-70s have now had their first Covid vaccination




Health Secretary Matt Hancock has praised Haverhill's ‘amazing’ community support for the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme while also revealing that 97 per cent of over-70s in the town have now had their first jab.

Speaking to Suffolk News on Friday, Mr Hancock, who is also the MP for Haverhill, praised the ‘amazing work’ in the town that has enabled the impressive figure to be achieved.

The EpiCentre at Haverhill Research Park has been operating as a vaccination centre since January 15.

Health and Social Care Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock
Health and Social Care Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock

It is one of a number of such centres being managed by the Suffolk GP Federation, with the support of volunteers.

Mr Hancock said: “The community support has been amazing around going out and getting tested and volunteering for the vaccination centre and making sure that everybody can get there, because the EpiCentre is on the edge of town and we wanted to make sure that everybody could get there, especially older folk.

“The volunteers have been amazing in making sure that is happening.

Matilda Rose Action Squad (a voluntary service helping deliver food, medicines and speaking to shielding people) have teamed up with Star Car cabs in Haverhill to taxi people to get their Covid-19 vaccinations at the EpiCEntre. Pictured are: Wendy Nunn and Phillip Nunn (from Star Travel), with Anastasia May (assistant manager at Matilda Rose) and Jamie Nunn (owner at Matilda Rose). Picture by Mecha Morton
Matilda Rose Action Squad (a voluntary service helping deliver food, medicines and speaking to shielding people) have teamed up with Star Car cabs in Haverhill to taxi people to get their Covid-19 vaccinations at the EpiCEntre. Pictured are: Wendy Nunn and Phillip Nunn (from Star Travel), with Anastasia May (assistant manager at Matilda Rose) and Jamie Nunn (owner at Matilda Rose). Picture by Mecha Morton

“One of the shining lights has been how much people will go out of their way to care for others and the amount of people who have stepped forward, especially in the vaccination programme, but lots of other parts too, has been great to see."

Mr Hancock added: “It’s good to see the individual cases (of Covid) coming down sharply in Haverhill.

“We had a pretty tough time in the second peak and there were quite a few people ended up at the West Suffolk Hospital or Addenbrooke’s and it’s really good to see that getting better.

“Then, at the same time the vaccination programme is now going great guns and across Suffolk as a whole it’s the third fastest in the whole country in terms of the participation numbers of people being vaccinated, so that was obviously great.

Jean Wingfield, 81, was one of the first to have their vaccination jab at the EpiCentre. Picture by Sam Walker
Jean Wingfield, 81, was one of the first to have their vaccination jab at the EpiCentre. Picture by Sam Walker

“I get messages from people who have got the call and gone along to the vaccination centre and it’s just so good to see this happening.

“In the second peak, there was a time just before the New Year when the number of cases was over 150 a day in West Suffolk as a whole, but now it is right down again, thankfully.

With the number of people receiving their first dose of the vaccine having exceeded 500,000 on numerous days in February, attention will soon turn to administering the second jab.

One of the first visitors to the EpiCentre is getting ready to be vaccinated on the day it began its role as a vaccination hub. Picture by Sam Walker
One of the first visitors to the EpiCentre is getting ready to be vaccinated on the day it began its role as a vaccination hub. Picture by Sam Walker

“We’ve got people just starting (to do that) this week, to come forward for the second dose,” said Mr Hancock.

“I don’t think the EpiCentre has given out any second doses yet.

A volunteer welcomes visitors to the vaccination centre at the EpiCentre at Haverhill Research Park
A volunteer welcomes visitors to the vaccination centre at the EpiCentre at Haverhill Research Park

“The first people in West Suffolk to get their second doses will be the ones who got their first doses at West Suffolk Hospital.”

Mr Hancock added that the number of people in West Suffolk that are aged over 70 and have now had their first vaccine jab stands at 95 per cent (as of last Friday).

Meanwhile, David Pannell, chief executive of the Suffolk GP Federation, spoke to Suffolk News to address concerns initially raised by Kim Johnson.

Kim contacted us to say she had heard of lots of people in their 60s who had not yet been offered the vaccine at the EpiCentre.

At the same time, she added, a number of people in their 30s and 40s have been invited to get their first jab, despite stating that they are healthy and not carers.

All the people, she said, were registered with Unity Healthcare in Haverhill, which is run by the Suffolk GP Federation.

In response, Mr Pannell said he was sure the ‘vast majority’ of over-60s had been invited to make an appointment.

However, he did add: “There will always be one or two patients, for example, for whom we don’t have any contact details or have moved into the area recently or have forgotten to change their contact details.

“I am not saying there are none but I think the vast majority have been invited now.

“For the under-60s there can be a whole range of reasons why someone has been vaccinated.

“They could be a carer or they could be extremely clinically vulnerable and there’s another group called the ‘at risk’, which is people with things like diabetes or learning disabilities and mental health issues.

“We have had quite a lot of feedback from people, often in their 30s or 40s, saying ‘I don’t know why I’ve been invited’.”

The federation, said Mr Pannell, would contact those on the ‘at risk’ register at the behest of NHS England, which holds the list.

Anyone in the Haverhill area aged over 60 that has not been invited for a vaccine should call 01473 921821 to book an appointment at the EpiCentre, added Mr Pannell.

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