Sinéad McLaughlin urges Robin Swann to copy Boris Johnson's Bolton 'vaccination surge' to tackle stubbornly high COVID-19 rate in Derry
A Derry MLA has written to the Health Minister Robin Swann asking him to roll-out a 'surge vaccination' programme similar to that being deployed in badly affected areas of England due to the above average rate of SARS-CoV-2 in the north west.
SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin has written to the minister asking him to accelerate the vaccination roll-out in Derry and Strabane.
"I am becoming increasingly concerned regarding the current rate of infection within the Derry and Strabane District council area. It is considerably higher than the NI average, and has been for some time," she wrote.
The Foyle MLA said she did not want Derry to be held back when the north eases further out of lockdown on Monday.
She referred to the disappointment felt in the city in early October when Derry had the highest coronavirus rate in Europe at one point and restrictions were tighter than elsewhere.
Ms. McLaughlin acknowledged that the situation is much improved now with most of the most vulnerable age cohorts vaccinated and few patients in hospital with COVID-19.
"The data appears to show that the infection rate is in predominantly 0-19 year olds and 20-40 year olds," she said, adding that whilst the infection is still spreading it is not impacting on vulnerable citizens.
She wrote of her concerns, however, around the debilitating effects of 'Long COVID.' stating: "I believe it is very important to protect all residents from risk of infection."
Last week, in response to a significant uptick in cases of the B.1.617.2 'Indian variant' of SARS-CoV-2 in parts of England, the Department of Health in London announced special surge testing and vaccination measures in the worst affected areas.
Scientists in England have estimated that the B.1.617.2 mutation is at least as transmissible as the already highly infectious B.1.1.7 'Kent variant' which is the most dominant strain of coronavirus in the six counties at present.
Last week English Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty suggested it's possible B.1.617.2 may be up to 40 to 50 per cent more transmissible than B.1.1.7.
Ms. McLaughlin has asked Robin Swann to consider a targeted vaccination surge in Derry to deal with our case rate which has been around three times the average for the north for some time now.
"Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to do a surge vaccine programme in areas of concern in areas such as Bolton, I would ask that a similar approach be taken in Derry and Strabane Council area if the rate continues at the current level.
"The vaccination programme to date has been extremely successful but if we can target those younger age groups that appear to be those getting infected we could hopefully limit the chance of transmission to those who are more vulnerable..
"I hope you would give this matter due consideration as a priority. It would enable relaxations to continue but with a plan in place to ensure rates can be reduced, ensuring the saferty of constituents."