A HEALTH trust boss is “confident” all over-70s in the county will be offered a coronavirus vaccine jab by the middle of this month.

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust chief executive David Stout said nearly 40,000 doses had been delivered by the end of January and the system was on track to offer the first jab in the two-dose course to everyone in priority groups one to four by mid-February.

In his report for the trust’s board, due to meet on Thursday, February 4, Mr Stout adds that Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin’s Covid-19 infection rates rose over the new year period “but are now showing signs of plateauing”.

He says around 100 trust staff have been redeployed either into Shropcom’s own coronavirus priority service, or to support the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust and the vaccination programme.

Guidance published by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation splits the population into 10 priority groups.

Group one incorporates elderly care home residents and their carers, group two includes over-80s and frontline health and care workers.

Mr Stout writes: “The aim is to have offered the vaccine to the initial top four priority groups by mid-February.”

His report says that, as of January 27, more than 38,000 vaccination doses had been delivered from sites including hospitals, local centres and the Telford International Centre and that the trust and its partners were “confident all priority one and two patients will have been offered a vaccination by the end of January and all the top four categories by mid-February”.

This would include cohort three, “all those 75 years of age and over” and cohort four, “all those over 70 and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals”.

Mr Stout writes: “Local Covid-19 infection rates continued to rise in December and January but are now showing signs of plateauing. In some parts of the country rates seem to be starting to fall.”

He says the winter rise “led to significant increases in Covid-19-related demand on NHS services” with some critical services “expanded to between 150 and 200 per cent of usual capacity” to accommodate coronavirus-related admissions “significantly above” the spring 2020 level.

“Within Shropcom, community hospital bed occupancy has also been rising with increasing number of Covid-19 positive patients and a number of outbreaks which have led to reductions in bed capacity on occasions,” he writes.

“In line with all NHS providers we have reviewed our services to identify any lower-priority activity which we can slow down or reduce in order to free up staff to deal with these service pressures and the need to support the Covid-19 vaccination programme [sic].

“To date we have identified around 100 staff who can be redeployed into our own priority service, to support SaTH and to support the vaccination programme.

“We will bring back these staff as soon as the current service pressure reduces to manageable levels.”