Unvaccinated adults “biggest Covid concern” — Rotherham health boss

Unvaccinated adults “biggest Covid concern” — Rotherham health boss

By Jill Theobald | 30/03/2022

Unvaccinated adults “biggest Covid concern” — Rotherham health boss

ROTHERHAM’S director for public health has described the 30,000 adults who remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 in the borough as his “biggest concern” as cases of the “highly infectious” new variant rise. 

Speaking exclusively to the Advertiser, Ben Anderson said rising patient numbers at the hospital and staff sickness rates among health and care staff due to the BA.2 variant of Omicron were leading to the cancellation of some routine services.

Meanwhile, nearly a third of the borough’s care homes are experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks and currently closed to admissions. 

He also estimated fewer than 15 per cent of cases locally could be picked up as a result of changing behaviours since the introduction of the Living with Covid strategy. 

The majority of Rotherham’s population aged over 12 have now taken up the vaccine, with up to 70 per cent of adults having at least three doses. 

But Mr Anderson said: "My biggest concern at present is that roughly 30,000 adults in Rotherham remain unvaccinated, leaving them unprotected from this highly infectious variant.”

On the day it was revealed deaths at Rotherham Hospital had risen to seven in the last week — compared with a single death during the previous seven days — and patient numbers neared 100, Mr Anderson told the Advertiser: “We are currently experiencing a wave of the BA.2 variant of Omicron which is the most transmissible variant of Covid-19 seen to date and is leading to a rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across the borough. 

“Rates of infection are higher than at any other time during the pandemic except for the initial Omicron wave, and, with legal restrictions removed, the risks of exposure to Covid-19 and subsequent transmission are very high.

"Fortunately, we are seeing the huge effects of the vaccination programme, which is lowering the risks of harm for those who are fully vaccinated.”

Mr Anderson said: “A key aspect of living safely with Covid is maintaining high levels of vaccination immunity in the population.

"The majority of Rotherham’s population over 12 years of age have now taken up the vaccine with 70 per cent of adults having at least three doses. My biggest concern at present is that roughly 30,000 adults in Rotherham remain unvaccinated, leaving them unprotected from this highly infectious variant. 
 
“Another priority is to continue to protect the most vulnerable. The spring vaccine booster is currently being offered to those over 75 years old and those with compromised immune systems.

"I encourage everyone who falls into this group to get the spring booster when it is offered to them. 

“We are also continuing our focus on outbreak management in high-risk settings such as care homes, health settings and special schools.” 

Responding to recent national research, Mr Anderson said: “The Office for National Statistics estimated that, in the week up to Saturday, March 19, 4.7 per cent (or just over one in every 22 people) locally were infected with Covid with cases still rising.

"This is significantly higher than the rate given on the government’s Covid dashboard which is now much less accurate due to testing behaviours changing after the announcement of the Living with Covid strategy. 

“The current reported rate is 743.8/100,000 for the week to Wednesday, March 23 - indicating that current testing is picking up less than 15 per cent of cases locally.”

Mr Anderson encouraged all residents to “do our bit to live safely with Covid and reduce the risk of transmission. 

“The public health advice remains that anyone experiencing Covid-19 symptoms or who has tested positive should isolate for at least six days or longer if they continue to be symptomatic, or continue to test positive on LFD tests," he said. 

“Continuing to follow the ‘Hands, Face, Space, Ventilate’ guidance will also help to keep transmission low.

"Regular hand washing with soap and water, or use of hand sanitiser, the wiping down of surfaces, wearing face coverings and maintaining social distance in crowded spaces, and keeping indoor spaces well ventilated all help to reduce exposure to the virus, especially while rates remain high during this wave.” 

Rotherham Council’s cabinet member for public health, Cllr David Roche, added: “Covid is still with us and we are going through a fourth wave so I urge people to take care.”