Luton, which recently had the highest case rates in the country, and enduring high case rates for the last year, currently has one of the highest rates of adults in the country who have yet to have a vaccine.
Lucy Hubber, Luton’s Director of Public Health, said: “Luton’s population is much more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to a number of complex factors such as social deprivation, high-proportion of frontline workers not able to work from home, demographic make-up and large numbers of multi-generational households making it a greater challenge for people to effectively self-isolate.
“We have a super-diverse multi-cultural community, which also means high numbers of permitted international travel will always contribute to our high rates.
“Worryingly, these factors are combined with a current model for vaccination which is not accessible to many in our population. During the spring we carried out two pilot open access ‘walk in’ community vaccination pop-ups which was highly successful in vaccinating people in our community who would have otherwise been missed.
“This approach to community vaccination has been praised by Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi and we are convinced that this is the only way of increasing our vaccination rates and protecting our communities”
In late April, we asked to be able to extend vaccination to all residents ahead of the national programme because of these greater risks within communities. It has also asked for greater flexibility in the ways that the vaccine is offered to reduce barriers to uptake. Neither of these requests have been approved by the government.
Cllr Hazel Simmons MBE, Leader of Luton Council, said: “Luton’s communities have done a fantastic job over the last few weeks to get our case rates back under control, but with the onset of a new worrying variant in our area and the easing of restrictions from this week, we need to act now in order to protect our communities by increasing our vaccination rates.”
“Vaccination offered to whole households, regardless of age, will protect families and reduce the devastating harm that COVID-19 has brought to our communities.
“Early action is critical to avoiding an increase in cases, and therefore harm from missed income or missed education or illness.”
We will continue to work closely with NHS Bedfordshire Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group to push for extended vaccination of the whole community.
Cllr Khtija Malik, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, has issued a reminder to residents on the need to protect themselves as restrictions are eased. She said: “Given our high COVID-19 rates and relatively low vaccination numbers, it is even more important that our communities continue to remember to wear face coverings, wash hands and keep a distance from others, as this is the best way to protect themselves and others.”