Health officials in Nottinghamshire say the county is “hugely challenged” in getting the population vaccinated against coronavirus.
It has been established this is down to a “complex” number of factors, but the more concerning include the fact some people are failing to turn up for their second jab as well as poverty preventing people easily accessing a vaccination site.
Just recently it was revealed Nottingham and Nottinghamshire’s vaccine uptake, particularly among younger people, was one of the lowest in the East Midlands.
Jab uptake has been improving, but it has proved a bigger challenge for health bodies in Nottinghamshire over much of the rest of the country since the very beginning, with rates being some of the lowest in England in the earlier stages.
While low numbers could be down to young people only recently being offered their jabs, health officials say the issue of people not turning up for their second dose appointments has become somewhat of an “issue”.
Amanda Sullivan, accountable officer for the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The vast majority of people do come for their second jab and that really is the vast majority of people, but we do have a small number who have not for a number of reasons.
“Of course we are trying to bring the second jab forward because of the Delta variant and the rising cases to maximise that protection. Forward to eight weeks, dropped from 12 weeks.
“Overall I think our numbers are low in terms of people not coming but anyone who does not come is a concern because of that extra protection against the Delta variant in particular.
“We have identified it as an issue and we do follow up and remind people if they haven’t come for their second. It is definitely an issue we are aware of and taking greater steps to minimise because it is a really important issue.”
While missed appointments is an issue, officials have emphasised the reasoning behind lower uptake in certain areas is more complex than people simply not wanting to take the vaccine.
It has been said Nottingham’s relatively high levels of deprivation may be paying a part in the reasoning behind lower vaccine uptake than the rest of the country.
Some of the areas with the lowest uptake percentages include inner-city areas such as Radford, where (as of July 2) just 36.2% of the population have had their first dose, and 16.4% have had their second.
These areas are typically populated by younger people and students, somewhat leading to the lower figures, however areas such as Broxtowe and Cinderhill also have low percentages at 57% for the first jab and just 38% for the second.
The more wealthy rural areas of the county have much higher rates of vaccine uptake, whereas areas such as Mansfield and Newark are significantly lower.
Speaking of this disparity Lucy Hubber, the city’s director for public health, told Nottinghamshire Live: “If you think around those barriers to accessing vaccines, that ability to be flexible about when you go, so people working shift patterns, or that the vaccine centres are a bit of a problem to get to in terms of the time it takes to get there, it can be that people who live in more deprived areas struggle with travel to a vaccine centre.
“Deprivation definitely plays a factor and that is then on us to make sure that we are offering vaccines that are accessible.
“In Nottingham we have the vaccine bus, we are looking how can we extend that offer as a more flexible and accessible offer.”
Mrs Hubber said issues for those in deprived areas may include lack of finances to pay for bus services, other health issues which physically prevent access as well as shift jobs which prevent access at the times hubs are open during the day.
She added: “For everybody it is important they get vaccinated. Even if they think they are young, well actually young people getting vaccinated will protect those around them.
“Having one dose now is great, for the Delta variant it is really important you get both doses.
“The most important thing we can all do right now is get ourselves vaccinated. Nottingham is really challenged in terms of vaccination and it is more complex than just assuming people don’t want to have the vaccine.
“There are bound to be people who feel tense or anxious but actually there are lots of people who feel other challenges, whether it be difficulties accessing online bookings, difficulty in physically getting to the sites, resources of getting on a bus.
“One of my priorities is to try and reduce those barriers to vaccination.”
Mrs Hubber said it is now one of her priorities to find out why some areas are experiencing low uptake, and remedying that by providing solutions, such as the aforementioned vaccine bus which has typically travelled to the areas where people are more likely unable to access a static site.
She also added that at all of the centres there are clinicians available for if people are concerned about side effects from their first jab, and to help encourage those who are anxious about taking it.