Race is on to vaccinate elderly in care homes as new variant Covid tightens grip on Bedford Borough

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Starting today, (Friday, January 15), medics are aiming to vaccinate all staff and residents at Bedford’s elderly care homes by the end of January, a meeting heard.

Bedford Borough Council’s local outbreak board was also told that 85% of new covid cases are of a new version of the virus which is much easier to catch.

“The more people we vaccinate in care homes, the more lives we will save,” said Dr John Kedward, the medical director of Bedford Doctors on Call (Bedoc). They have created a team of hundreds of vaccinators.

He told Thursday’s meeting that one life is saved for every 20 jabs but that he has had to “push very hard” to secure supplies of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Dr Kedward warned that there are “already outbreaks in most of the care homes in Bedford.”

He added: “We have not got this under control.

“We have to maximise the vaccination to minimise the risk to as many people as possible.”

He said that the area is due to receive 7,000 of the Oxford jabs next week, which should allow them to catch up shortage in what they had asked for.

“The only reason we got the vaccine for Friday is that we kept pushing and badgering for it,” he said.

“We are going to be working hard next week, all guns blazing,” he added.

Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur) the council’s health and well-being portfolio holder said: “It’s so important we get out and vaccinate those people in care homes as soon as possible because they are extremely vulnerable.”

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Ian Brown, the Borough’s chief officer for public health said a new variant of the virus is rife in the community.

“More than 85% of cases in the first week of January were estimated to be from the new variant of Covid,” he said.

Public health chiefs say that of every 30 people, one now carries the virus, making it a “very high rate of infection.”

Mr Brown reported a chink of light in that the rate of people found with the virus is still going up, but not as steeply.

Unfortunately he expects the death rate to increase over the next few weeks, as the borough heads for a peak.

Bedford Hospital has about 175 Covid patients in its beds, and 28 people sadly died with it in the last seven days.

Dr Sarah Whiteman, the medical director of health commissioners across Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes, said the NHS is under tremendous pressure, with the numbers in Bedford Hospital filling “not quite half” the total capacity.

The numbers of patients are also putting a huge strain on oxygen supplies.

Replying to a question from Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green, Castle), Dr Whiteman said the councillor was “right to be worried.”

Mr Brown said the new variant is so catchable that people should put more distance between themselves and others.

“I think we need to think about two metres plus now,” he said.

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