Places of worship and Corn Exchange could be used to give Bedford people vital flu jabs

Places of worship and indoor venues are being lined up as possible places where at-risk people could receive their free flu vaccinations.

By David Tooley, local democracy reporter
Thursday, 11th June 2020, 4:00 pm

Public health officials in Bedford are looking at how to give people who are at risk from influenza their annual jabs while everyone has to stay socially distant.

Dave Hodgson, the mayor of Bedford, said the council would need to talk to GPs about where the jabs would be given.

Responding to a question from Dr Roshan Jayalath, of the King Street surgery, he said: “We have venues. Maybe using the Corn Exchange is a good one, or places not being used, churches, gurdwara or mosques.

Mayor Dave Hodgson

“Maybe we could look at four or five venues, unless we are having big events inside before December, which I don’t think we will be.

“But we need to try and plan it now, to book maybe a week for the Corn Exchange.”

Bedford Borough Council’s health and wellbeing board, on Wednesday (June 10) turned to the task of convincing people to get a flu jab, and other immunisations, during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

They are also concerned about the possibility of other infections, such as measles, taking hold in the community.

Director of public health, Muriel Scott

According to Public Health England, flu has killed between 1,692 and 28,330 people across the country every year between 2014-15 and 2018-19, putting thousands of other people in hospital.

Muriel Scott the borough’s director of public health, said: “June is the time we need to plan, so everything is in place for September and October with all the constraints covid-19 has brought.”

Dr Nicola Smith, who chairs the new clinical commissioning group covering Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes, said the health system is geared up.

But she added: “It’s about convincing the public to get their vaccinations done. It is a really big thing and we will all be behind it.”

Cllr Louise Jackson

But Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur) the borough’s elected head of health and wellbeing, said she thought there would be less of a problem convincing people about vaccinations.

She urged health chiefs to find a different kind of vaccine for children because a nasal spray alternative to the needle contains pig gelatine.

“Some people didn’t want to have it because of religious reasons,” she said. “If we have some of the most vulnerable people who are not taking the vaccine, we don’t want that on top of covid.”

Figures for Bedford flu jabs last winter saw the borough failing to hit immunisation targets when compared to national figures. As few as 31.6 per cent of carers were protected. They say there were delays getting vaccines.

Mayor Dave said he believed convincing people should be easier. “There is a vaccine for this, and where there is a vaccine, make sure you it.”

But he wants people to be able to get vaccinated as early as possible.

Health chiefs are planning to vaccinate people eligible for free flu jabs by the end of November. Those include the over 65s, pregnant women and two-and-three year-old children.