'We are getting back on track': MP Thérèse Coffey on Suffolk vaccine delays

  • Watch the full interview with Dr Thérèse Coffey MP

The MP for Suffolk Coastal Dr Thérèse Coffey has said she feels "confident" that the county will be back on track with Covid-19 vaccines in the next few days.

It comes amid concerns that Suffolk had one of the slowest starts in getting people aged over 80 a vaccine dose.

In an interview with ITV Anglia's Rob Setchell, the cabinet minister spoke of the "frustrating" times her constituents have been facing.

But she assured residents the pace will quicken with more supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on its way this weekend.

Here's what she had to say on...

  • Why Suffolk is so far behind

I'm conscious that it looks like we're the lowest in the country but I'm pleased to report that's up to over 50% [of over-80s] now.

Nevertheless, I think there's a number of factors that have got on, one is we are a more rural area, distribution of Pfizer is more challenging in more rural areas. I think also some of the networks haven't been flowing quite as well as they should have been but I'm confident that we are getting back on track.

Absolutely every person over the age of 80, certainly in my part of Suffolk, should have been contacted by now in order to make an appointment

  • Whether there has been a failure of organisation

I think what's not been particularly transparent is how the distribution of invitations is happening.

Every part of our area is divided up into what's called a primary care network and it seems that I have at least four in my constituency and it seems that they've all been taking a slightly different approach on how to contact patients on the GP lists.

I think that's where, some of the support, putting into those primary care networks to help with the administration will start to bear fruit. I know it's frustrating and I know it's actually rather distressing that people feel that they've been left behind but I can assure them that the contacts are happening.

Any constituent of course can get in touch with me.

  • What people should do if they haven't heard anything.

I'm sure that people will be contacting surgeries. Of course, it's often the surgeries that are handling the appointments. I know that everyone in the local NHS and the national NHS wants to get this right.

What I've been able to do is to have a bit of a hotline, candidly, to people in the local NHS to say where there are still some problems. Of course, people can go direct if they can but I know every MP will be wanting to help right now.

I want to give confidence to people once we get through, particularly to this weekend, what we'll start to see is more of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being available for more of the rural areas.

Understandably, they've been prioritised for distribution, to make sure all the people in care homes have received the vaccination by this weekend. So although we have been behind, over 50% now, I think the pace will pick up once we get more of the supplies and plenty are now arriving in the next few days"

  • Concerns about the vaccine booking systems

My understanding is that particularly the one that's being used in part of Suffolk, the website is being improved.

I'm conscious that a lot of people over 80 will not be particularly IT savvy and I've also asked for more help to be given to the phone lines. So that when people phone they have a reasonable chance of getting through in order to make those appointments.

I'm sure all our viewers recognise the huge scale of this exercise across the country and I can assure them that we are getting through it.

I understand why it's been a frustrating time and that's why I raised this issue locally earlier in the week.