Government ministers have been urged to work more closely with the Liverpool City Region to help increase the speed of the vaccine roll out.
In a letter to Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said the experience and infrastructure that the city region had put in place as part of its mass testing scheme showed – that if government worked more closely with local leaders – then it could increase the pace of delivering the vaccine.
The Mayor also called for a mass vaccination hub to be set up in the city region – after the successful opening of a facility in Greater Manchester – highlighting the many potential venues in the city region, including Anfield, Goodison Park, Aintree racecourse and Liverpool’s Arena and Convention Centre.
Finally, the Mayor said that while it was welcome that an overall UK vaccination number is being published, he asked for ministers to publish more granular data; broken down by region, local authority, age and priority group. He said that this would allow us to get a clearer picture of what was happening locally, measure our progress towards vaccinated target groups and identify areas in need of greater support.
The full text of the mayor’s letter is below:
Rt Hon. Matt Hancock MP
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street
Dear Secretary of State
Re: Vaccine rollout in the Liverpool City Region
I am writing to you with regard to the rollout of Coronavirus vaccines in the Liverpool City Region. Beating this virus requires a national effort and I wanted to once again emphasise my desire for the Liverpool City Region to be at the forefront of the UK’s vaccine rollout.
We stand ready to work with the government and our NHS to deliver the vaccine to our residents, as quickly and safely as possible. However, I am concerned that our capacity and enthusiasm are not being fully utilised.
You may recall that last year, during our discussions around bringing the mass testing pilot to the city region, I suggested to government that one of the added benefits of the city region engaging in the pilot would be that it would mean we had the logistical capacity and network in place to roll-out the vaccine quickly as access to supplies became available.
I’m sure, then, that you can imagine my disappointment that this local infrastructure is not being utilised. Over the course of the pandemic, we have shown consistently that we are able to work to quickly and effectively to deliver large scale interventions to tackle coronavirus – as we did with mass testing.
I would be keen to meet with yourself and the Minister for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment, to discuss how we can speed up vaccine deployment in the city region.
Secondly, I would also urge government to work with us to establish a mass vaccination hub in the city region. The hub already operating in Greater Manchester is of course welcome, but I fear will be too far to travel for many people, especially vulnerable groups, and will not be enough to satisfy demand across the whole of the North West.
I would therefore request that you urgently look at deploying a similar facility in the Liverpool City Region. We have a number of potential sites, from our football and rugby stadiums to Aintree Racecourse and our arena and convention centre, which could be ideally suited to the task. I would be happy to work with you to identify and launch a hub in our city region.
Thirdly, I welcome the recent commitment by the government to publish figures on the number of people who have been vaccinated in the UK. I was one of the first to call for the government to release data on transmission rates and regional R rates at the beginning of the pandemic and we have seen how effective transparency and Open Data has been in supporting communications campaigns and making people aware of the situation in their areas.
While it is welcome that an overall vaccination number is being published, a UK figure alone is not enough. I would ask that the government start to provide more granular data; broken down by region, local authority, age and priority group. This would allow us to get a clearer picture of what was happening locally, measure our progress towards vaccinated target groups and identify areas in need of greater support. Doing so would also help us find areas of best practice exist, from which everyone can learn.
Our region is committed to everything we can to help make the vaccine rollout a success and get back to something resembling normality. We want to play an active role – please don’t leave us watching from the side lines.
I look forward to your reply.
Mayor of Liverpool City Region