Covid vaccine roll-out 'incredibly encouraging' says public health boss

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

The "massive effort" to get people in Norfolk vaccinated against Covid-19 is "incredibly encouraging", the county's public health director has said.

Dr Louise Smith said she was "hopeful" the roll-out of the vaccine, which she described as "unprecedented", would now lead to a reduction in the number of people who need to be admitted to hospital.

Dr Smith told BBC Radio Norfolk that there are currently 575 patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the county's hospitals - but she hoped that figure would fall in the weeks ahead as more vulnerable people get their jabs.

She said: "We are incredibly encouraged. We are seeing a massive effort, with all hands on deck.

"We've never seen anything like this - this kind of number of vaccinations being done in this kind of time is unprecedented.

"The key issue for us, from a public health perspective, is that we are eagerly watching the data - looking to see the signs of impact.

"The first thing the vaccine should do is start having an impact on the numbers that need to be admitted to hospital.

"We are hopeful we will start to see the early signs of that within the next few weeks."

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But she said those people with Covid-19 who were being admitted to hospital were spending longer on intensive care.

The rate of Covid-19 cases in Norfolk is now less than 300  per 100,000 people, although Norwich and Great Yarmouth, while falling, remain in the top 75 areas of the country in terms of positive tests.

But she said: "I don't have concerns about that. I'm pretty clear that all of our areas, across Norfolk, are coming down.

"We will see outbreaks in specific areas, but the overall pattern is that we are steadily coming down."

Norfolk's care homes have seen record deaths of patients with coronavirus during January.

Data released on Tuesday from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) showed 103 care home residents died in the week ending January 29 – up from 69 the week before. 

Dr Smith said the county council has been working with care providers.

She said there were outbreaks in about 125 care homes, with about 1,500 residents and staff having tested positive in January.

She said that was "in line with the rest of the community", and that numbers in care homes would drop more slowly than in the community.