Bedford MP criticises lack of vaccines in area amid spread of Indian variant

·4 min read

A Bedford MP has said a lack of vaccines for younger people in the area means not everyone who is eligible has been able to access a jab.

Labour politician Mohammad Yasin said constituents aged 37 to 39 in his area, which has seen one of the most marked increases in Covid-19 cases linked to the Indian variant, have not been able to access vaccines without travelling “large distances”.

Bedford has the second-highest rate of coronavirus in England, with 214 new cases recorded in the seven days to May 13.

Mr Yasin said: “We are pleased that the Government has increased surge testing but what we’ve asked for is surge vaccines for 16 to 40s and they’re resisting that.

“So we are now in a situation where 37, 38 and 39-year-olds are eligible for vaccines but can’t get them in Bedford, but can access them elsewhere if they are able and willing to travel large distances.

“It makes no sense that they aren’t flooding high-risk areas with vaccines.”

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Labour MP Mohammad Yasin has said not everyone who is eligible for a vaccine in Bedford has been able to access one (Chris Radburn/PA)

But Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire Richard Fuller has said “we have the tools we need in Bedfordshire” to continue tackling the virus.

He said: “Having had two calls with Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine minister, and with the local Clinical Commissioning Group in the past week, it is clear that we have the tools we need in Bedfordshire to continue the progress we have been making in combating the virus, even with the prevalence of the Indian variant.

“The key message is that people in high risk groups who have not yet had a vaccine should now take that step, reassess their risk to themselves and others, and take advantage of the availability of vaccines across Bedfordshire.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also voiced his frustration that some people are still not getting the coronavirus vaccine, including people in hospital in Bolton – which has also been particularly hard-hit by the Indian strain.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has expressed his frustration that some people are not taking the coronavirus vaccine, amid the spread of the Indian variant (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Yasin told PA that vaccine take-up has been “impressive” and criticised the Government’s response to blame increasing transmission in some areas on vaccine hesitancy.

He said: “Vaccine take-up has on the whole been impressive, so I’m not comfortable at all that the Government’s response to the Indian variant taking hold is to point the finger at the public when it’s quite obviously their failure to keep our borders safe from new variants that’s the real problem here.”

Mr Yasin added that he would not support local lockdowns to curb the spread.

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Labour MP for Bedford Mohammad Yasin has urged the Government to provide ‘surge vaccines’ in the area amid the spread of the Indian variant (Jane Barlow/PA)

Bedford’s director of public health Vicky Head has said she is “really worried” about the “really massive rise” of Covid-19 cases in the area, which have jumped from “three or four” a day to up to 10 times that figure over the past month.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Tuesday, Ms Head said: “I am really worried about it.

“Everyone needs to understand just how transmissible this variant is.”

Ms Head said a “surge” in Covid-19 testing was being planned for parts of the borough to identify those who have the virus, but are not showing symptoms, and to ensure they self-isolate.

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(PA Graphics)

Bedford’s Covid-19 rate jumped from 61.2 cases in the week up to May 6 to 123.5 per 100,000 people in the seven days to May 13.

It is only behind Bolton in Greater Manchester, which continues to have the highest rate in England, with 811 new cases recorded in the seven days to May 13.

The figures have been calculated by the PA news agency based on Public Health England data published on May 17 on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.

Ms Head said: “That’s one of the really striking things about the variant, is just how transmissible it is.

“If someone goes to school and tests positive, we are then seeing their whole family test positive.”

Ms Head said she remained “confident” in the vaccine programme as most of the new cases in Bedford were recorded in those aged under 40.

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