A vaccination update from West Berkshire

The vaccination programme is being delivered by the NHS but we retain a keen interest in how the roll out is progressing locally. We were pleased to be joined at Monday’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board Dr Abid Irfan from the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group and to hear his update on the progress made so far.

We know what residents are most interested in is what is happening in their community – and when they and those they care about will get their doses.

Whilst there is monumental effort by the NHS nationally to distribute the vaccine, much of the hard work to get doses to residents is being done by local GP surgeries. They have been working collaboratively to set up local vaccination centres which they are running together, and with the support of our local Clinical Commissioning Group.

There are two local vaccination centres; one in Pangbourne, involving three GP local surgeries, and one in Newbury which is a larger site covering nine individual GPs surgeries. Until the end of January they will be vaccinating anyone over 80 as well as frontline health workers and social care workers. From there they will move on to the over-75s, and then the over 70s and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

GP surgeries have worked really hard to get these vaccination centres up and running as quickly as possible. It has been great to read the praise for the centre staff from patients grateful to have received their vaccine. Although vaccinations are being delivered as quickly as possible it will take time to get to everyone – please be patient and wait for your GP to contact you about making an appointment.

The speed at which our NHS partners are working and the complexity in arranging a national vaccination programme means that along the way they will experience some logistical difficulties. This week Newbury Racecourse has come in for a little criticism for not allowing vaccinations to continue at their site on race days. The reality is that it would be challenging for the site to operate seven day a week due to the vaccine distribution process. GPs were aware of these operational issues before setting up the centre and they did so confident that they would still be able to reach their targets within timelines – even without doing on the odd few days.

Speaking of the vaccination centre, we have received several enquiries asking whether more trains can stop at the Newbury Racecourse station. We’ve asked the question of GWR, and are pleased to say that they have agreed to put on more trains. It will take a couple of weeks to implement, but we’re grateful to them for their flexibility and delighted that local residents will have more sustainable travel options when journeying to get their vaccination.

Elsewhere we are ploughing on with our plans for new community testing facilities in the district. We are close to agreeing our first testing site for Newbury which should open next month and will allow testing for critical and key workers, as well as people involved in the management of local outbreaks. There will be a phased approach to those identified for testing and the relevant cohorts will be invited to join the testing programme over a series of weeks. Once that is up and running we will then be looking at additional sites in the east and west of the district, and potentially a mobile unit too. Testing to identify asymptomatic Covid carriers is important in managing the outbreak, and a potential release of the restrictions so we are working to get these open as quickly as we can. We’ll keep you updated on this as our plans progress.

Away from the pandemic response, business as usual continues and this week we were thrilled to announce this year’s Community Champion Awards. We haven’t been able to do an awards ceremony this year but it shouldn’t take anything away from this year’s winners with the standard as high as ever. This year we introduced special categories in relation to coronavirus, in addition to our usual categories and it allowed us to recognise a broad spectrum of community-minded activities this year. There are far too many to mention here but do please take a look at the website and read about the incredible winners we’ve had this year.

We’re continuing to look beyond the immediate demands of the pandemic to plan for the future and we have a number of important consultations closing in the next few weeks. These include the Newbury Town Centre Masterplan Study (which closes on 31 January), Local Plan Review 2037 (closes on 5 February) and the Minerals and Waste Plan (closes on 15 February). We have also started a consultation this week on our proposal for a new sports ground at Newbury Rugby Club. Each one is really important in helping us take into account local views as we look at how the district develops in the coming years. Whilst we all find ourselves confined to our homes please take a time to look at these documents and tell us what you think.

•For more information about vaccinations, including the number of people vaccinated as we receive the data, visit: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/covid-vaccination

•To find out more about the Community Champion Awards visit https://info.westberks.gov.uk/awardwinners

Yours sincerely,
Lynne Doherty
Leader of the Council

Nick Carter
Chief Executive


  1. David Brown
    January 22, 2021

    There is cautious optimism the R number is very slowly declining. I guess there will come a stage where the vaccine roll out programme starts to have an impact on the daily death rate and infections, however I feel it is some weeks away yet.
    I am sure it will happen, but will post my view. There needs to be a fundamental review of the way the pandemic has been handled in the future, so lessons are learnt and systems are in place to deal with any future problems. This should not be about pointing blame, but careful analysis of the steps that was taken and the impact not just on Covid numbers but the impacts across health, education, economy, mobility,etc.
    To conclude its challenging topic that requires more than a knee jerk reaction to what went right and what went wrong, that’s why I’m not going to be critical or otherwise, its far to serious for that.

  2. formula57
    January 22, 2021

    It is nice that there is no real urgency so it is fine to report: – “…GWR, and are pleased to say that they have agreed to put on more trains. It will take a couple of weeks to implement,…”. How difficult is it really to stop a train at a station?

    An elderly relative had a first dose Pfizer vaccine the other day, but no, a second appointment could not be scheduled yet and no, the administering GP had no idea about identifying patients in the c. five per cent. for whom vaccination will prove ineffective. So two big claps due for our NHS.

  3. DaveK
    January 22, 2021

    Sir John,

    May I ask your thoughts on reports that delay between jabs may cause major problems? I would rather that the 5 million done in this period had their second jab and were safe and the risk of a vaccine resistant mutation occurring reduced than have a fanfare that 10 million have been vaccinated. Bearing in mind the Lancet Global Health report stated that 4% of the population are at risk of hospitalisation which is approx 2.68 million people. Therefore vaccinating those properly should dramatically reduce deaths. I am willing to wait rather than gambling. After all those least at risk can be vaccinated when the epidemic has waned in Spring/Summer. Feel free to delete this link: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-9174157/I-fear-ditching-dose-timetable-prove-costly-mistake-writes-expert-PROFESSOR-HERB-SEWELL.html

    1. davews
      January 23, 2021

      I see the BMA are now questioning the logic of delaying the second shot. Similarly reports are that the effectiveness of the first shot declines rapidly and may only offer 30% protection. I see little point in rushing ahead with vaccines unless this policy is changed, a 30% effective vaccine is worse than useless and your government will soon have egg on its face when this is realised by the masses.

    2. formula57
      January 23, 2021

      But Patrick Vallance has insisted it’s too early to be concerned about Israeli data that suggested one dose of the Pfizer vaccine is only 33 per cent effective – so if that is not sufficient reassurance then I do not know what is!

      (Of course, expect some late, panic actions to reverse course in say three weeks.)

  4. MiC
    January 23, 2021

    John, this strikes me as having the utmost urgency and importance.

    WHO have said that the second shot of the Pfizer vaccine should be given at four weeks, and only delayed to a maximum of six in exceptional circumstances.

    Pfizer themselves cannot offer any evidence that delaying beyond this will not adversely affect performance and advise against it.

    The BMA and international medical community are aghast at the Government’s decision to allow a twelve week delay. As far as I know the UK is the ONLY country considering this.

    If people are vaccinated in this way and then in a few months time some of them die of covid – more than the stats would indicate would have if the directions had been followed – then how can the relatives of those victims not have a cast-iron case against HMG?

    I urge you to join with the BMA and to use your offices to the maximum of your abilities to address this as soon as possible.

    Thank you.

    1. MiC
      January 23, 2021

      *BMC, sorry.

  5. Ian
    January 23, 2021

    Dear sir John,
    Very well said regarding the Government dragging it’s feet regarding lack of enthusiasm for U.K. and what ideas they might be pushing to encourage one and all, start building new bigger fishing boats, start producing more food here, build more cars etc etc
    John you and your faithful, have been banging your collective heads against the Government for years.
    It should be plain by now.
    It might be time to see what Westminster is and has been on an anti U.K. drive for the last 50
    To have what the sovereign voters voted for we need you and your like minded to start showing your Government for just what it is.
    We thought we would be without the EU not E U light, we need to be free, of them , what we have is another betrayal, we have all had at-least some education , enough to know we are short changed.
    You are The Few, with out total change with all in Westminster it is just a smack in the face for Democricy again

  6. Bernard from Bucks
    January 23, 2021

    I’m afraid I don’t agree with making the ‘over 80’s’ or even the ‘over 70’s’ travel to local vaccination centres. All my elderly friends (U3A) have said how much easier it would have been to pop down to the local doctor’s surgery for the Oxford jab. Many old people have given up driving. Has no one thought of that?

    1. Bernard from Bucks
      January 24, 2021

      If I may add that today was a perfect example of how I feel. This Sunday I was required to travel in all this snow over to Wycombe football ground to receive my first vaccination. It was hairy driving I can assure you, but I made it to a very quiet centre with hardly anyone there. Obviously playing safe and staying home.
      Very quiet and very efficient I might add.

  7. APL
    January 24, 2021

    Did you know the lockdown in England and Wales has been extended until the 17th July 2021 ?


    You must know, because Mat Hancock, said that any substantial change to the COVID-19 regulation would be put before Parliament.

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