Board to receive a verbal update from the Director for Public Health.
Ruth Tennant provided an update on current circumstances, highlighting the following points:
· There had been a significant fall in infection rates – it was currently 94.7 per 100,000. Solihull had seen one of the biggest falls in the region, by 31 per cent over the last 7 days.
· It was believed the fall was attributable to the vaccination roll-out, with the impact on deaths and hospital admissions, as well as the lockdown restrictions.
· It was emphasised the above trends were good news; however, a lot of the new cases concerned working age adults, a group that would not be vaccinated for some time. Ruth Tennant emphasised the importance of staying vigilant and retaining protective measures, as schools returned and lockdown restrictions were eased.
· A key challenge moving forward was ensuring hard to reach groups received their vaccinations. A Birmingham and Solihull-wide Inequalities Vaccination group had been established. Here they were focusing on areas where there were lower up-takes, as well as identifying groups that may find it harder to access vaccination sites, in addition to people who may still have concerns about the vaccine.
· As the lockdown restrictions were lifted, there would be a significant focus upon encouraging people to routinely access testing.
· The Local Outbreak Management Plan was being refreshed, which set out the measures being undertaken by the Council and its local partners to identify and contain outbreaks, as well as protect the public’s health. More funding had been allocated from Central Government to support delivery – the measures here included local contact-tracing and self-isolation payments.
Councillor Sexton explained how she welcomed the roll-out of the vaccination programme and the positive impact upon the volume of hospitalisations and deaths amongst older groups. She queried whether there had been a corresponding fall in infection rates amongst these groups following vaccination. Councillor Sexton also queried the anticipated impact of the vaccination on transmission rates, including asymptomatic transmissions.
Ruth Tennant detailed how they were seeing a fall in case rates amongst older groups following vaccination. In regards to the impact of the vaccine upon onward transmission, Ruth Tennant advised the evidence so far appeared to be positive, noting the ongoing studies that were being undertaken on this.
Councillor McCarthy highlighted news coverage she had read regarding the testing arrangements for Primary Schools, which included tests that parents could access. She queried the arrangements for delivering this locally.
Ruth Tennant confirmed there would be an expansion of School-place testing – there would be routine testing of Secondary pupils, whilst testing would also be in place for all Secondary and Primary School staff. There wasn’t a testing programme for Primary School pupils, as they did not appear to spread Covid-19 to the same extent. Ruth Tennant confirmed there would be an expansion in testing for family members around Primary Schools and they were awaiting the guidance to be issued on this. The school testing would be delivered directly via the schools, whilst the community-based testing would continue, delivered via the leisure centres.
Councillor McCarthy queried the delivery of the vaccine to people who had experienced anaphylactic shocks in the past. Ruth Tennant emphasised how there was a very clear pathway for anyone with a previous history of allergies, with specific clinical advice – she confirmed how the Government’s Green Book included guidance on the delivery of the vaccine to people who had a history of anaphylactic shocks. Dr Taylor also detailed how they had worked with the acute trusts, to ensure people who may be at higher risk received their vaccine in the safest possible environment.