Has the North East had its fair share of coronavirus vaccinations?
More than 20 million people across the UK have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.But what is the picture for our region?There have been concerns about us being treated unfairly, since a report in late January said the North East and Yorkshire's vaccine supply was going to be halved, so other areas could catch up after our fast start.
The government denied it, with the Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi telling me: "No vaccine will be taken away from the North East."
At Friday evening's press conference, responding to questions about a lack of supply to some GP surgeries in the North East, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted the vaccine programme had been "equal and fair, UK-wide", but also that our region had "nailed it" so far.
Dr Susan Hopkins from Public Health England said, "the North East has been achieving over and above what the rest of the country has done."
So where does the truth lie? We now have vaccine rollout figures from the NHS over a longer period of time, and they've become gradually more detailed. So I've been crunching the numbers...
Have we been pegged back after a fast start?The figures are mainly provided according to NHS region, grouping the North East with Yorkshire.It's important to take population size into account (using the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, from mid-2019).The age 16+ population (which is what the NHS vaccine figures refer to) in the North East and Yorkshire is around 15.4% of the total for England.Up until 17 January, 688,990 jabs (first and second doses) had been done in the region - 17.3% of the national total.By 21 February, 2,439,114 jabs (first and second doses) had been done in the region - 15.8% of the national total.So it does appear that the North East and Yorkshire got off to a fast start, before being pegged back, but the region has still done more vaccinations than the national average.
Has vaccination supply slowed down?The vaccine rollout continued to accelerate throughout January and into February, at both a national and regional level. For example, in the week from 11-17 January, 1.6 million doses were administered across England, of which 255,945 were in the North East and Yorkshire.In the week from 1-7 February, 2.4 million doses were administered across England, of which 367,232 were in the North East and Yorkshire.There have been some slowdowns more recently - ministers have described supply as "bumpy". This has happened on both a national and regional level. The slowest day was 21 February, when 116,333 doses were administered across England, of which 15,537 were in the North East and Yorkshire.Numbers have gradually picked up again since that, though not reaching previous daily peaks. The latest figures we have are for 27 February, when 386,948 doses were administered across England, of which 55,284 were in the North East and Yorkshire.
So how do we compare to other parts of the country?The NHS' weekly figures now include the number of people who have received a first dose, according to which council area you live in. This allows us to separate the North East away from the large area of Yorkshire and get a more meaningful regional picture.I have used 18 and over populations here, as the vaccine rollout currently plans to offer vaccines to all adults.
These are all from the latest weekly figures, up to 21 February:
North East:First doses - 754,924Adult population - 2,137,884
Other regions - % of adult population who have had a first dose:
North West - 35.5%
Yorkshire and Humber - 34.0%
East Midlands - 34.8%
West Midlands - 34.6%
East of England - 35.2%
London - 25.2%
South East - 34.7%
South West - 38.3%
So, the North East is ahead of the national average, but not leading the pack - that position belongs to the South West.
To sum up, the row about vaccines being retargeted elsewhere feels a little bit like a matter of semantics. The North East got off to a good start - we just seem to be good at this vaccination business. The government and NHS had to ensure that everyone in the top four priority groups, across the country, was offered a first dose by the middle of February, so other areas had to catch up. If it was the other way around, we'd be crying foul about a 'postcode lottery.' Supply was also going up everywhere. When it has dipped, that has been on both a national and regional basis.
The North East may have been denied the chance of making quicker progress through the priority lists. This could be seen as important given high rates of poverty in our region and the fact many deprived areas have been hit particularly hard by coronavirus.
There have been some suggestions that those areas could be given priority within the vaccination process, but it doesn't appear to have been too widely or seriously discussed. The rollout continues then, largely according to age, across the UK.