I joined a BBC South East Today reporter on Monday 22nd November to contribute to their local news on Covid Levels in Mid Sussex aired at 18:30pm.
Whilst the interview lasted well in excess of 5 minutes, only an approximately 20 second segment was included and I recognise some constituents will have been concerned about the narrowness of the response.
Below is a transcript of the full interview where I have emphasised the importance not only of vaccinations but of mask wearing in busy environments alongside hand washing, ventilation and social distancing to protect our communities and valuable NHS and education resources.
So, I guess the obvious question, how concerned are you about these figures for Mid Sussex?
Well, it has been concerning to see that Mid Sussex has risen around 25% in terms of COVID cases. Generally, we've been pretty lucky in our patch and, in fact, people who've been going out getting their COVID jabs have really been helping with that, and in fact, across West Sussex we've got 84% of people first jabbed, second doses that are 78%, but we really need to get that booster number up because that will bring us back towards that 95% of coverage, which will help those most vulnerable and above all protect our services, particularly doctors and the NHS and the people that we need to be fit and well, helping us through this difficult winter period.
I mean, it's one of the figures we’re the highest in the country and particularly high among young people. I mean why do you think it's particularly high in Mid Sussex, do you have any idea of what's causing it?
So we've got a link between the age groups that are at school, so those people who could be between the 12 and 15 age group who need to be getting that first jab and also the 40 to 49 year olds, so of course predominantly parents of that age and unfortunately our take up off jabs for the youngsters is around 40%, so what we really need to do is try and get that vaccination level back up to around perhaps the 60% level which will help both with parents and with youngsters, and of course, really help battle back COVID here in Mid Sussex.
The reality is if you have 3 jabs you are back to around that 95% coverage and these jabs of course sort of wain, not like a flu jab you just have one every year, with this you need to keep topped up so it's really important we get the youngsters jabs, but also those most vulnerable, those who need their boosters or indeed that second dose or even the first dose that people get them and that will help protect not only Mid Sussex but wider.
And why is the take up lower? Is this a case of do you think hesitancy or is it just people not being able to get in to get them?
So, I think we were really geared up for the first wave of people coming in for their boosters and I'm afraid we didn't see that bow wave. Now people are starting to see the numbers shooting up in Mid Sussex and wider, then they’re coming through for those jabs. So, if you can't get through to book now, and of course if you're aged 40 today for your six-month period or from five months and once you're six months, you can now get your jab booked.
The reality is we just need more people coming forward and the local NHS and the Commissioners are really boosting that availability as well. So, it's a mixture of things, making sure people have second or those booster jabs, and that we really get that number of younger people who haven't taken up that first opportunity, aged 12 through to 15, taking those jabs as well.
Yeah, and I suppose, I guess, is there a case here do you think would you call back for more restrictions being brought back into maybe schools in your area or in the wider area to try and tackle this as you say, if there is some sort of hesitancy around younger people getting jabs that it could cause quite big problems going forward, wouldn’t it?
Well, firstly we need to get back to normal measures to try to support battling back Covid. So, the usual of trying to get those masks back on in those enclosed circumstances with when you're not at work, for example that you're with strangers, you're on public transport, etc you’re in the supermarket, keep those hands well and truly washed and that regular ventilation as well and make sure that you are absolutely using the social distancing opportunities as well and really making sure that those that can get those additional jabs.
I think, at the moment, it's just reminding ourselves that we are in a winter period we’re with people that we don't know, make sure that they've got those masks on, whether in public transport, in a taxi or wherever, and just try and protect the most vulnerable.
We've enjoyed some of our freedoms, but at the moment with the winter pressures, I think it's most important to get back to mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing and ventilation, which of course can protect Christmas but more importantly, protect the NHS, protect the wider, most vulnerable so that we can get through winter and make sure that we’ve got the staff and the people that we need both in schools, both in work, both across the NHS and because everybody is impacted if we've got more COVID around, that means our general services are reduced and we want to avoid lockdowns and reduced services.
Yeah, I mean would you say, I mean, would you call for masks in in schools again, do you think to tackle those?
Local leaders can make the right decision for school children and for learning, and we know ultimately if you can get that third jab, if you're most vulnerable, you're going to be back to 95% coverage, so I think the key thing is also battling back why people might be vaccine hesitant in terms of youngsters and school children. Because of course you know youngsters are sold, whether they want the latest thing on Tiktok or something for Christmas, there's also messages out there that might be putting them off getting jabbed. Now, if it's a choice of more masks or a jab, I think we know most young people would prefer to avoid the mask, but of course that will be down to local leadership.
We're monitoring everything, and of course there's a plan which the Prime Minister said that we don't need to reach for now if we take these opportunities to battle back with the social distancing, with the hand washing, with the masks where appropriate, so we can try to do as much business as usual and avoid what we're seeing across Europe.