Thanks to a collective effort, vaccinations are now well under way and I am delighted that all local care homes in the area have now been visited.
To date, vaccinations have been taking place at one specific site per “Primary Care Network” (which is a group of GPs), mainly due to the delicate nature of the Pfizer vaccine and the need to process a high number of patients in a short space of time. As you may know, the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at incredibly low temperatures, and once delivered, 975 vaccines must be used within 3½ days – the batch cannot be split up or moved to different sites. Additionally, space is required post-vaccination for a 15-minute observation of patients, which sadly in surgeries would be difficult whilst still allowing them to operate in the usual manner. That being said, since delivery of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine - which can be stored similar to a flu vaccine, and does not need an observation period - I’m pleased to confirm a number of local surgeries and pharmacies have started being used as part of the rollout.
As you can imagine, GPs are currently very busy, so please wait to be invited and do not contact your surgeries. If the practice has not been able to reach you initially, do not worry. They are all keeping lists and will come back to you. Our local health providers have worked immensely hard to get us to the position we are in today, and I am grateful to all of the volunteer marshals who are doing an excellent job at managing the safe movement of patients. This is another example of the incredible community response we've seen locally during the pandemic.
Across the district, Covid-19 cases are thankfully beginning to fall, (at the time of writing, 329.6 per 100,000 to 24th January) but infection rates remain very high and our NHS continues to operate under significant pressure. Our priority is clear; to make sure as many of our vulnerable residents get the vaccination as soon as possible, and to allow life to start to return to normal as quickly as it can. With the rollout of the vaccine I hope we can start to turn things around and make 2021 the story of human triumph over nature's adversity.
I know these are anxious times, and I am therefore keen to share as much information with you as possible. I have set up a dedicated webpage on my website, which is regularly updated: www.lauratrott.org.uk/vaccine-update. However, if you have any further questions or wish to discuss a specific case please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley
Below is a snapshot of what we have been working on. If there is anything, I can do to support you, please get in touch.
- Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the asymptomatic Covid testing site in Sevenoaks. This site is for people who don’t have symptoms but may be unknowingly spreading the virus in the community. I was delighted to see how brilliantly the site was running, and my huge thanks go to all the excellent military personal and staff who are working so hard to test as many visitors as possible. I would also like to say thanks to Kent County Council Director of Public Health Andrew Scott-Clark and his team, who have played a pivotal role in setting up such testing sites across the county and are transitioning to take over the running of the centre.
- Following the setup of the Sevenoaks vaccination hub, it quickly became clear parking was an issue. Myself and Tom Tugendhat (the Tonbridge & Malling MP) therefore contacted SouthEastern to see if any parking was available at the station, and their response was fantastic. Within a day they agreed to cordon off part of the car park, solely to be used for patients of the vaccination centre. This has been incredibly helpful in the smooth running of the whole operation and I am grateful to SouthEastern for their responsiveness and ongoing support.
- Safe return to schools is vital given the devastating impact the closures have had on children’s mental health, academic attainment, and the heavy burden placed on parents. Now that we know schools - and in particularly primary schools - do not contribute to the spread of this vicious disease, I asked the Prime Minister to share the evidence with headteachers, teachers, parents and students. It is important than we reassure everyone that, regardless of the vaccine, schools are safe to fully return. .
- Having been calling for additional business support since Sevenoaks was placed under Tier Four restrictions, I was delighted the Chancellor announced a one-off top up grant for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses worth up to £9,000 per property. Since December, Sevenoaks District Council has paid out over £5.5 million in business support grants to local businesses. From speaking with business owners, I know this funding has been a lifeline to so many, and I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to the team at SDC who over the last month have worked hard to make this possible.
- You will all be familiar with my focus on helping to prevent and support domestic violence. There is currently a brilliant operation run by Kent Police with local schools called 'Operation Encompass', whereby police automatically inform schools when a domestic violence incident has occurred in the child’s home. Tragically, this has been vital locally in protecting and supporting our young people – and I think it is something all children should be supported by. I therefore asked the Home Office Minister to ensure it is rolled out nationally.
- At Prime Minister Questions, I asked the Prime Minister to guarantee that both parents can have access to hospitals when their child is sick, despite the Covid-19 virus. Healthcare for children is something I continue to raise, and I was pleased the Prime Minister committed that parents are an integral part of their child’s recovery, and should not be treated as visitors.
- Finally, as part of my five-point plan to tackle antisocial behaviour, I agreed to work with Kent Police, the Home Office and our excellent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott to increase police officers on our streets. I am delighted to hear that that latest Budget proposals will see police numbers in Kent rise by another 145 officers by March 2022, bringing the total to 3,970. The figures are hugely encouraging and will mean more police officers can be assigned to local schools, Kent Police's gangs and county lines teams and improved crime investigations and visibility. If you have suggestions for where we need more police in our area, please do get in touch.