Presentation from the Director of Public Health.
The Committee received a presentation from Harrow Council’s Director of Public Health outlining the current position with regards to Covid in the borough as well as updating the committee on progress with the vaccination programme. The following key points were raised:
· Having multiple layers of protection such as social distancing, self-isolating, enhanced hygiene and vaccination, continued to play a crucial part in reducing transmission of Covid-19;
· Latest figures for Harrow showed 52.6 cases per 100 000 of population, with an increase of 65% in the 7 days up to 17th June 2021, which was a cause for concern. In line with the current national epidemiological trend, majority of the cases recorded in Harrow were of the Delta variant.
· The number of cases per ward fluctuated on a weekly basis and whilst no specific pattern was being observed a significant number of cases reported originated within family groups.
· Community Covid-19 testing continued, with highest rates observed in care homes, health services and schools. Although testing rates were generally lower in the eastern parts of Harrow than compared to the west, there was no specific correlation with positive rates. In addition, plans were under way to target disproportionately impacted groups by increasing availability of testing within those communities.
· Government funding had changed with the Department for Health and Social Care introducing a cap on the levels of funding available, which has meant that local authorities have had to review their testing provision and from end of June close a number of static sites, switching instead to a more targeted community model.
· Although 52.6% of adults in Harrow had had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, significant variances in the uptake between the different ethnic and minority groups remained, with people living in the most affluent parts more likely to get vaccinated compared to those living in the most deprived parts of the borough (79.5 % v 37% respectively).
· Byron Hall Mass Vaccination Site had been operational since 8th June 2021 offering both Pfizer and Astra Zeneca doses. The primary care site at Byron Hall was due to close allowing GPs to return to business as usual and respond to pressures in their practices.
· Compared to national and London average, vaccination uptake in Harrow was progressing well, with Harrow having the highest overall rates in north west London. Vaccination was open to all adults over 18 but some variance in uptake across the different age groups was observed. People were encouraged to come forward and the council alongside community and health partners was exploring a range of options including flexible appointments, pop-up clinics and expansion of the pharmacy provision, in order to maximise uptake across all age groups.
Member thanked officers and NHS representatives for their updates and asked a number of questions, which were responded to as follows:
· Covid-19 vaccination boosters during the autumn period were being considered and were likely to be prioritised for people in cohorts 1 to 4. Although the exact details around the administration of the autumn booster programme could not yet be confirmed, it was anticipated to include a hybrid approach between a large- and small-scale bespoke delivery. An announcement from the government was expected within the next few weeks and the general expectation was that the booster programme would coincide with the annual flu vaccination.
· Approximately 98% of the all Covid cases in Harrow were of the Delta variant and the remaining 2% of the Alpha variant - a similar trend to the rest of London. Despite a number of school outbreaks having been reported in recent weeks, the vast majority of cases developed in households. No consistent patterns had been noted but it was likely that the rise in cases was to an extent a result of easing of restrictions and increased social mixing amongst the younger population.
· Community engagement played a key role in the vaccination programme and the council was using an innovative and multifaceted approach to ensure all groups were adequately approached. A team of community champions, who worked closely with the council brought in valuable local intelligence and were pivotal in getting the overall communication strategy, alongside more traditional methods including videos in different languages and tailored digital radio adverts.
· Vaccination rates in care homes was being closely monitored and reported to the NHS on a regular basis. Government plans about making vaccination mandatory for all care home staff and visitors was an area of growing concern due to the significant impact on businesses and their workforce. The proposals were currently being presented to Parliament and if passed would be implemented from October 2021.
· Vaccination for children in the UK against Covid-19 was being considered but had not been approved for use by the MHRA. However, plans for vaccinating children against Covid-19 were seen by many as controversial given global disparities and shortages.
· The full long-term financial impact on health and social care providers by Covid-19 was yet to be seen and whilst on a local level there were no reported service failures in Harrow, a number of voids had already started to emerge, causing providers in other parts of the country to close. Post-pandemic situation was constantly evolving with the health sector having to deal with multiple covid-related conditions as well as complex mental health needs. Contractual arrangements which had been protecting providers from loss of income since the start of the pandemic had also changed and the sector was seeing an increase in urgent care activity.
RESOLVED: That the verbal update be noted.