Article for Battle and Blog - Vaccination vacuum in Rural Rother
Last week's immensely sad Observer report of the Covid deaths at Edendale Lodge care home in Crowhurst was a timely reminder, if we needed it, that the vaccine roll-out has a long way to go before we can start, literally, to breathe more easily. To lose 13 out of 27 residents in three weeks must have been horrific for residents, staff and families alike and our hearts go out to them.
The Government's decision to prioritise vaccinations by vulnerability rather than by ability to contribute to the economy was correct, but perhaps a modest recognition of the consequences of past mis-handling. The early insistence on moving untested elderly patients out of hospitals and forcing them upon unwilling care homes was undoubtedly a major cause of the early spread and high death rate. Subsequent flip-flopping on schooling, 'eat out to help out', tiering and lock-downs has given us some of the very worst global figures- according this week's news, currently the worst death rate in the world.
The one aspect of this nightmare that even the harshest Government critic would have to acknowledge has gone well has been the successful acquisition of so much of the early vaccine supply (albeit not without some misgivings about wealthy countries benefitting at the expense of others).
So, it was with a rising sense of disbelief that I heard the only vaccination 'hub' for the whole of Rural Rother, including Battle and Rye, was at Etchingham. This is great for the 800 or so residents of Etchingham, but it is one of the smaller and more remote parishes in Rother. The village hall is a three-quarter mile walk from the railway station. Access by bus would require, at least, a change at Hurst Green. The round trip by taxi from Battle would cost £45. By car, for those who can drive, it's a 20 mile round trip from Battle, 36 miles from Rye.
Battle has the largest 'Rural Rother' population, has a large number of centrally placed homes for older people, has good public transport links and is centrally located within Rother. It also has a large hall with several discrete spaces and very few current users. At a virtual meeting last week with the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) my attempts to question the decision-makers on their seemingly illogical decision were simply ignored, nor has there been any written response.
It would be unforgivable if anyone had to forego a vaccination simply because they could not get to Etchingham. Most who cannot drive themselves will hopefully have a friend or relative who can take them: you do not have to be part of a support bubble as this is an 'exempt reason', but unless you're alone you are advised to wear a mask and keep your windows open, an unattractive prospect in January. However neither of you, of course, should be showing any symptoms, and you may need to check your car insurance. Failing this you should contact whoever sent your invitation, or NHS Volunteer Responders on 0808 196 3646 (but they are very busy).
Those in the 'highly vulnerable' categories receive constant media reminders of the high proportion of deaths they account for. It is all the more important that, having raised anxieties and expectations, the CCGs think much harder about the practical consequences of their decisions rather than just enabling them to tick a box.
Cllr Kathryn Field