York vaccination leader says Yorkshire super-centre is coming – and urges tougher lockdown restrictions

Dr Mike Holmes explains the process of the follow up injection to Shiela Ali at the Askham Bar vaccination centre. Photograph: Darren Casey / DCimaging
13 Jan 2021 @ 11.26 am
| News

The man overseeing York’s Covid vaccination programme has said further lockdown restrictions should be considered until the number of hospital admissions and deaths starts to fall.

In a wide-ranging interview on YorkMix Radio today, Dr Mike Holmes also said:

  • a Yorkshire vaccination super-centre announcement is coming – as York’s hub expands rapidly
  • vaccinating all the over-70s by mid February is ‘absolutely achievable’
  • they are aiming to vaccinate everyone over 50 by Easter
  • that the NHS were making heroic efforts under huge pressure.

Dr Holmes is chair of Nimbuscare, the primary care group overseeing the vaccination programme in York, and is also vice-chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Asked by a listener whether tighter restrictions were needed, Dr Holmes said: “The sad reality is that we are seeing more and more people seriously ill because of coronavirus.

“Our hospitals have 50% more people in them currently than they did at the same time last year. And I know York Hospital are increasing the number of beds they have for coronavirus patients.

“The figures that we’re seeing nationally in terms of the number of deaths are staggering.

“So I think a short period of tougher restrictions might be needed. It’s not going to be forever, we have got the vaccine, and that will have an impact.”

Listen to the full interview

Mid-Feb target for over-70s

Olive, 106, is the oldest patients to receive the vaccine at Haxby Surgery

Dr Holmes praised the teamwork that has seen quick progress on vaccinations in York. “It’s become a real city wide effort, not just general practice involved but all different health and social care sectors.”

As well as the Askham Bar centre, there’s a vaccination hub at York Hospital and four GP vaccination centres, at Haxby, Postern Gate in Selby, Pickering and Tadcaster.

“There have been some challenges along the way. But we’re now seeing these services ramp up and expand.

“And we’re going to be vaccinating more and more people. Boris Johnson’s target of all the over-70s by mid February is absolutely achievable.”

York to become super centre?

A marquee at the Askham Bar centre with its ten vaccination pods. Photograph: Dr Abbie Brooks

The government has set up seven vaccination ‘super-hubs’ across England, but none in Yorkshire.

Asked about this by YorkMix Radio breakfast show host Ben Fry, Dr Holmes said: “There’s going to be another tranche of super-centres launched next week, and they are in the process of ramping up.

“We’re not in a position where we can give more details than that.

“But what I what I can say without giving too much away is that the site at Askham Bar has been expanding.

“Those of you who have driven past will have seen large cranes on site over the last week, installing modular buildings so that we can expand the capacity and get more people through.

“So there will be more information released about that in due course, particularly over the weekend.”

Your questions answered

Dr Jenny Senior and dentist Japkirat Singh Sond at the centre. Photograph: Darren Casey / DCimaging

Dr Holmes answered listener questions about coronavirus and the vaccination programme.

Does the vaccine works against the new variant?

The jury’s still out. Scientists are still working on that. What I can say is, the way we know that the two vaccines work, the sense is that it will work against this new variant.

Do healthcare professionals believe the current lockdown restrictions are enough, or do we need to go further?

The sad reality is that we are seeing more and more people seriously ill because of coronavirus. Our hospitals have 50% more people in them currently than they did at the same time last year. And I know York Hospital are increasing the number of beds they have for coronavirus patients.

The figures that we’re seeing nationally in terms of the number of deaths are staggering. Yes, we’ve got the vaccine, and yes, that will have a huge impact. But it’s not going to be for a little while.

As a health care professional, it’s hard to stand back and, and watch these number of people die as a consequence of this.

So I think a short period of tougher restrictions might be needed. It’s not going to be forever, we have got the vaccine, and that will have an impact.

When we look at the numbers of vaccines we need to give to save lives, it’s incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as effective as this in my entire career. We only have to vaccinate 20 residents in a care home to prevent one death.

That gives you a feel for how devastating this disease is. So, I do think we need to consider tougher restrictions, albeit for a very short period, till we start to get the trends of patient admissions, patients on intensive care, and the number of deaths going in a downward direction.

Should we be concerned about the longer gap between the first and second doses of the vaccine?

The short answer is no we shouldn’t. Our senior politicians, clinicians, our chief medical officers have have really considered this in great depth. And their view is that we need to vaccinate as many people with a first dose as we can, and quickly.

Particularly for that Pfizer vaccine, we know the first dose will give people up to 90% protection. And the second dose only gives an additional 5% protection. So it really is logical that we go for as many people with first doses as possible. And that is what’s happening locally.

So, you know, we’re trying to get as many people through our services, get them vaccinated for the first time and give them a significant amount of protection. And we’re aiming – and this may be ambitious – to vaccinate everybody over-50 by Easter in that first 12-week block of vaccinations.

How is the NHS coping?

There’s no doubt they’re under significant pressure. Our colleagues in hospital have done an amazing job since since the very beginning of this. And they’ve coped with huge pressures – rising numbers of patients, increasing numbers of staff off sick with this dreadful disease – and they continue to deliver the care that our patients need.

My colleagues in general practice, they’ve adapted how they work. They really are pulling out all the stops to continue business as usual. At the same time, they’re contributing to the to the vaccination effort. It really is a monumental effort.

Nobody goes into healthcare to be described as heroic. But actually, as I take a step back and look at my colleagues out there, it’s hard to find other words to describe them really.