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Published: Friday, 8th January 2021

A letter to Nadhim Zahawi MP, Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment from the Leader of the Council, Cllr Danny Thorpe

I am writing to you to set out our commitment as a borough to supporting the vaccine rollout and to make some specific asks of the Government in light of the situation here on the ground in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. 

The need to vaccinate our residents in order to protect the local population is of utmost importance to us here in Greenwich, and we stand ready to do anything that is required of us to help our colleagues leading on this important work in the NHS. I am in constant contact with colleagues from our local NHS partners and have clearly set out to them that we stand ready to help wherever we can. I have just returned from a visit to one of our local centres with Clive Efford MP, where we already have volunteers in place, supporting this national effort. However, we are clear we want to do even more. 

We can offer our staff resource, operations and buildings over to support the vaccination programme, and have engaged a number of key local partners, such as Charlton Athletic Football Club, in anticipation that it will be a collective effort that is needed to ensure the vaccine is rolled out as quickly and as safely as possible. 

At a time when our NHS colleagues are facing immense pressures, local government stands ready to support the vaccine role out. Hospitals in our local trust are facing immense pressure as the number of COVID patients requiring critical care continues to increase. This is now beginning to have an impact on their ability to treat patients with other health emergencies and unless we take action now, unnecessary deaths will continue. 

We also need the Government to ensure that our NHS are held accountable on the collection of ethnicity data on those who have received the vaccine. Having seen the truly devastating and disproportionate impact of Covid19 on our BAME communities, I have been raising this issue repeatedly with local health partners and I would like confirmation that this is happening not just within Greenwich but across the country.

We are seeing awful conspiracy theories targeted at our BAME communities and need reliable and up to date data, so we can ensure a real focus on getting all of our vulnerable residents vaccinated as soon as possible. 

I’d also like to recommend that the Government considers the prioritisation of schools’ staff in its vaccination programme. As I’m sure you are aware, Greenwich suffered a whole range of issues just before Christmas and were subject to legal threats from the Government. I want to be clear that I have always been absolutely clear that the best place for children is in school, but we were increasingly challenged based on rising infection rates. Data gathered from September to November 2020 showed a 269% higher rate of infection in teachers compared with the rest of our borough’s population. Therefore, I would like to know what your plans are to ensure these staff can get vaccinated, so we can get our schools open as quickly as possible. 

This, alongside the testing of students and staff in school settings, will ensure that schools return both quickly and safely. I hope you’ll agree with me that every action possible should be taken to ensure that children return to education as soon as is possible. 

I know that other London Leaders will also be writing to you in the same vein – we need the Government to tell us how we can help in anyway. We are happy to be involved in any discussions about how we work together, in local, central government and with help partners, in tackling one of the biggest challenges we face of our time. 

This is the time for us to come together and take action on vaccination.