24 May 2021

Local Resilience Forum encourages vaccine uptake to help protect against new variant found in West Yorkshire

West Yorkshire leaders are calling on people in the region not to let their guard down too soon and continue doing all they can to minimise the spread of infection, as lockdown restrictions ease and the new COVID-19 variant is found in West Yorkshire. 

West Yorkshire Prepared, the region’s Local Resilience Forum (LRF), has saidthe new variant of concern (VOC-21APR-02) originating from India and detected in Kirklees, may be more transmissible than the current dominant strain, known as the ‘Kent variant’. It is highly likely the vaccines offer substantial protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death, which is why it is crucial to get both vaccine doses as soon as they are offered. However, there are still pockets of areas in our region where vaccine uptake is low.

Another strain, known as a ‘Variant Under Investigation’ (VUI-21MAY-01), has been found elsewhere in Yorkshire. Government scientific experts are monitoring the situation and rates of different variants closely, to allow prompt additional action as necessary.

Dave Walton, co-Chair of West Yorkshire Prepared and Deputy Chief Fire Officer of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “A small number of cases of the variant first detected in India have been found in Kirklees. However, with increased testing and those infected isolating, the risk to the general population is extremely low. Our concern is if the new variant does take hold in West Yorkshire and spreads to other areas, it will hit those communities where vaccine uptake has been low, as has been seen elsewhere in the country, which could lead to increased hospitalisations.”

Kirklees is currently in the top ten in England of areas with the highest Covid rates, with all other West Yorkshire Local Authority areas in the top 30.

Dave added: “It is important to note that across the region, vaccine uptake rates have generally been very high, but there are still pockets where it remains low. For people who are eligible but who have not yet had the vaccine, we would ask them to carefully consider all evidence and research to ensure they’ve made an informed view.”

Dr Phil Wood, Medical Director at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Senior Responsible Officer for the West Yorkshire Vaccination Programme, said: “Anyone who is 32 or over can book online now without waiting for an invitation or by calling 119. We have appointments at our vaccination centres across the city, including our community pharmacy centres and local GP centres so you can choose a time and place that suits you. These are also available to anyone in the nine priority groups who hasn’t yet taken up the offer of a vaccine so please do think about booking an appointment if you haven’t already. 

“Getting vaccinated will protect both you and others and we’re asking people to help us to help them by booking their jab as soon as they are eligible.”

The NHS and Public Health England have produced a wide range of information on the vaccines including how they were developed and tested, evidence of how effective they are and the latest guidance. For more information, see: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/ and www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england. There are also many sources of information providing facts about the vaccine and debunking myths being spread online and within communities:

Last Monday, more restrictions were lifted in line with step 3 of the roadmap, including indoor hospitality and sport reopening, an increase to the maximum numbers that can meet outside and up to six people or two households able to meet indoors. However, everyone should continue to do all they can to protect themselves and others.

The simplest actions to take are:

  • Continue to work from home if you are able to (speak to your employer for clarity)
  • Keep contacts to a minimum and maintain a social distance from those not in your household/support bubble
  • If meeting with friends and family, use your judgement regarding close contact
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • If meeting people indoors, open windows and doors to let fresh air in
  • Wear a face covering where required
  • Get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible
  • Take a PCR test if you have COVID symptoms and isolate with your household if you test positive

For reliable, up to date information on Covid-19, please visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus or www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.

To keep up to date with West Yorkshire Prepared, please visit www.westyorkshireprepared.org.uk or follow us on Facebook (@WYPrepared) or Twitter (@WYRForum).