To maximise uptake there are now more than 3,000 sites—more than ever—delivering covid-19 vaccines and boosters, including hundreds of walk-in sites. Opening times have been extended to seven days a week. GPs and community pharmacies have been asked to do more vaccinations, and 750 armed forces personnel and 41 military planners have been brought in to every region to help co-ordinate the national effort. The offer of a covid vaccine—a first or second dose, and a booster for those eligible—remains open to everyone.
In rural areas such as mine in South East Cornwall, it can mean travelling miles to get to the nearest available centre. What ambitions do the Government have to get vaccinations out to the smaller communities to assist those who have yet to be vaccinated to get their jab?
Well, 99% of the population in England live within 10 miles of a covid-19 vaccination site, and robust plans are in place to ensure that everyone has convenient access to a vaccine. In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, 85% of those eligible have received their booster or third dose. There are targeted vaccination programmes in Cornwall to support the homeless, Traveller and migrant workers communities and fishermen—a community that has a great champion in my hon. Friend.
For those in more rural Cornwall communities, a further 16 pop-up sessions are organised throughout January, and more are planned to ensure that everyone can get boosted more easily.
A number of residents in Bolsover have written to me to ask why there is not a specific vaccination centre in the town. Given that the booster roll-out has slowed locally and given our poor bus connections, could the Minister—as my former Whip, I know that she is incredibly persuasive—look into having a specific site in Bolsover?
There are now six vaccination sites in the Bolsover district. A regular pop-up clinic was also set up in Shirebrook to address and identify the shortfall in uptake, but that has been phased out as new community pharmacy and primary care network clinics came on board to support the local vaccination programme and increase the number of Bolsover sites at the end of 2021. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be delighted to hear that a new roving vaccination van is being deployed across Derbyshire. It will visit Bolsover and surrounding villages to provide extra capacity and ensure that everyone has another way to get their booster jab. It will also allow those not yet vaccinated to come forward for this life-saving protection.
Undoubtedly, additional vaccine sites in rural communities will increase vaccine uptake, which is vital. However, does the Minister agree that, for NHS staff, counselling and one-to-one conversations are right and far more effective than the Government’s current plan potentially to sack the 5% of hospital staff in the Morecambe Bay region and indeed across the country who have not been vaccinated? That would cause a serious capacity problem in the NHS.
I reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are talking about patient safety. He is quite right that it is important to have that dialogue, and I know that colleagues across the board in the NHS are having that. It is interesting to note that more than 94% of NHS staff have already had their vaccine, and I commend them for that. As the chief medical officer Chris Whitty rightly said, those looking after other people who are very vulnerable have a “professional responsibility” to get vaccinated.
Access to vaccinations in remote areas is incredibly important, but so is a general health strategy for clinically very vulnerable people. Young Lara in my constituency had the organ that she desperately needed for a double organ transplant, but unfortunately there was no bed in intensive care for her to have the operation. What strategy is the Department taking in general for our clinically vulnerable to provide access to operating theatres so that there is a focus not just on vaccination but on the multiple health conditions that so many of them suffer across the board?