The Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs and Deputy Mayor Cllr Rachel Blake have written to the Health Secretary to set out the work that Tower Hamlets Council is doing to drive up vaccination rates in the borough and to call on the Government to take steps to help the efforts.

The letter highlights that Tower Hamlets has one of the youngest populations in the country, and with vaccinations being offered to priority and older groups first, this has translated into a lower vaccination rate in Tower Hamlets when compared with other areas which have an older population.

Their letter emphasises that as vaccinations are now being offered to younger age groups, it’s vital to drive up vaccination rates amongst young people to help protect each other and to prevent the spread of the virus, particularly as infection rates are increasing nationally with the Delta variant, and particularly given the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on many in Tower Hamlets.

The Health Secretary is urged take steps to help the council’s efforts, including ensuring vaccine supply and staffing capacity for vaccine clinics and larger vaccination events, ensuring vaccine supply and vaccinator capacity for a roving bus that the council has prepared, delivering a step up in the number of pharmacies in the borough with vaccine supplies and appointments, and ensuring that there is an adequate and consistent supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine required to vaccinate the large numbers of young people in Tower Hamlets.

Nationally the Labour Party argue that the next few weeks are crucial in containing outbreaks of the Delta variant and that increasing vaccine uptake must be Ministers’ number one priority. The Party is also calling on Ministers to set out a clear plan to address inequalities in vaccine take up.

Mayor Biggs and Cllr Blake also highlight the work that the council has done already to drive up vaccination rates in the borough, where over 150,000 residents have already had their first jab, including setting up the council’s vaccine helpline and Covid-19 ambassadors, establishing a Covid-19 community champions network, and regular communications and events with residents in community languages to help reach hard-to-reach groups.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “We’ve been working hard to encourage our residents to get the vaccine when offered, and it’s great news that over 150,000 Tower Hamlets residents have now had their first jab.

“The vaccine is now available to much younger age groups and we need to do everything we can to drive up vaccination rates in Tower Hamlets. We’ve set out some important steps that the Health Secretary can take to support us in this, and I urge him to do what he can to help get more of our residents vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Cllr Rachel Blake, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Wellbeing said: “It’s absolutely vital that we get as many young people vaccinated as possible now that it’s available to them, in order to help protect each other and to prevent the spread of the virus, particularly as infection rates are increasing nationally with the Delta variant, and given the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on many in Tower Hamlets.

“I’m really proud of the work we’ve done to encourage residents to get the jab, and I hope the Health Secretary will support our work to get more of our young people vaccinated quickly.”

Full text of the letter sent to the Health Secretary:

Dear Secretary of State

As you will be aware Tower Hamlets has one of the youngest populations in the country, and as vaccinations have rightly being offered to priority and older groups first, this has translated into a lower vaccination rate in Tower Hamlets when compared with other areas which have an older population.

We have been working hard to encourage our residents to get the vaccine when offered, and we are pleased that over 150,000 Tower Hamlets residents have now had their first jab. We have utilised our Covid-19 ambassadors to share important public health messages, including in community languages, and this forms an important part of our engagement with Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in our borough who have been so disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. We utilise regular communications and Q&A sessions with public health experts in community languages, and we work closely with community groups to help us reach hard-to-reach groups.

We have also worked with health partners to promote vaccines to staff and residents, rolling out vaccinations clinics in settings including East London Muslim Centre and Granby Hall.

We set up and continue to run a vaccine helpline, taking over 13,000 calls by 2 June 2021, and our Covid-19 Community Champions form a network of residents receiving regular updates from us to share with friends, family and others.

However as vaccinations are now being offered to much younger age groups, it’s absolutely vital that we do everything we can to drive up vaccination rates amongst our young people to help protect each other and to prevent the spread of the virus, particularly as infection rates are increasing nationally with the Delta variant, and particularly given the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on many in Tower Hamlets. Driving up vaccination rates amongst our young people will also of course help enable restrictions to be lifted next month.

We are working with our local North East London CCG to make sure we have the resources to deliver, and we’re writing to ask you to support this work, specifically by:

  • Ensuring vaccine supply and staffing capacity for a significant number of additional community vaccine clinics as set out in our surge plan submitted to the North East London Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Ensuring vaccine supply and staffing capacity for a number of large-scale events in parks and/or larger venues in the borough during July
  • Ensuring vaccine supply and vaccinator capacity for a roving bus that the Council has brought on stream and is ready to go
  • A significant step up in the number of pharmacies in our borough that have vaccine supplies and appointments
  • An adequate and consistent supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine required to vaccinate the large numbers of young people in our population.

Given the significant public interest in this matter we will be publishing this letter.

Yours Sincerely,

Mayor John Biggs & Cllr Rachel Blake

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