12 October – Message from Solihull’s Director of Public Health, Ruth Tennant

Released:

As we move through the autumn we continue to live with and manage COVID.

After schools went back rates increased across the borough, with the large majority of cases in 11-15 year-olds. 

There are now signs that, after an initial spike, this has peaked and case numbers in our schools have fallen - from a high of more than 1000 cases to 412 today. We have clear plans in place to support schools with outbreaks and we continue to work with schools and head teachers to do this.

Our local rate stands at 430 per 100,000, compared to 417 across the West Midlands region and 358 across England. This compares to 249 in mid-September and means that every week about 900 people in Solihull are still getting COVID.

It is worth noting that overall Solihull’s COVID-19 vaccine uptake figures are better than the England averages, with 80.1% of over-12’s having received the first dose, compared to 75.8% in England. To date 74.7% of over-12s are now double vaccinated in Solihull compared to 70% in England. 

This is fantastic progress. Vaccination is the best way to protect us from coronavirus and I urge everyone to take the vaccine as soon as you are invited.

COVID is particularly dangerous for unvaccinated pregnant women and their babies.  The clear national advice is that it is much safer to be vaccinated against COVID than catch the virus when you are pregnant.

Nationally 17% of the most critically ill COVID patients are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated.

In the last six months, 98% of the 1714 pregnant women admitted to hospitals in the UK with COVID were unvaccinated and 235 of them needed intensive care.

Our local hospitals provide dedicated support to give the best possible care to any pregnant woman with COVID but, if you are pregnant, please get vaccinated and support anyone you know who is pregnant to do the same.

Testing rates in the borough also remain high - and this is key.  It means people are getting tested when they need to and so can self-isolate to stop spreading the virus to friends and family.

Our local asymptomatic testing centres in Solihull town centre and Chelmsley Wood continue to be popular with those choosing to be tested by trained staff and many people are also still getting self-test kits to use at home. 

So, to those of you who are regularly testing, thank you and carry on. 

If you aren’t regularly testing, please take the time to make it part of your weekly routine.  Accessing tests has never been easier – find options here: COVID-19 tests | solihull.gov.uk

This way you can check you are COVID free before going out and about and, if you have secondary-aged children, can help stop the spread of COVID in our schools.

Our NHS is under very significant pressure with new COVID cases being admitted to local hospitals daily. Currently there are 24 people with COVID in intensive care and 165 other patients in hospital being treated for the virus.

So, it is very clear that we need to do everything we can to keep taking COVID seriously - even as we return to a more normal way of living.

Other winter viruses are also starting to circulate and the things you do to stop COVID will also reduce your risk of catching these. Hands, face, space all work.

The Council is encouraging people to get their flu jab so that they have the best protection against a virus that can cause severe illness and even death: Free NHS flu jabs available for eligible people | solihull.gov.uk

A free NHS flu vaccine is available every year to eligible people, to help protect them from the risk of flu and its complications.  For more information visit: www.birminghamandsolihullccg.nhs.uk/your-health/flu

And - it is never too late to get your first or second COVID vaccination.  If you still haven’t, please do.

Booster shots for those at highest risk are also now available so if you are eligible make sure you get yours as soon as possible.

The 12-15 vaccination programme has now gone live in secondary schools and will be rolled out across the borough in the next few weeks. It will include young people who are not in school or who are educated at home.

This service is provided by NHS local immunisation nurses who are very experienced in vaccinating young people in schools, including routine flu and HPV immunisation.

If your child missed their vaccination because they were off school there will be opportunities to catch up.

More details will be available here: https://www.birminghamandsolihullcovidvaccine.nhs.uk/ and also via schools. There’s a lot of good information about why the vaccine is recommended for 12-15 year-olds, including this explainer video from local GP Dr Sonia Ashraf:  

COVID-19 - Vaccination 12 - 15 year olds - Parents video (vimeo.com)

So please share this and encourage parents of 12-15 year-olds to consider the vaccination. They can ask their GP for more information and, once they’ve made the decision to go ahead, to give consent for the vaccination.  It means their children won’t miss out on doing the things they love.

There has been some incorrect information circulating on social media and false consent forms issued, so if you have any concerns please do let us know.

To clarify the position, from 20 September 2021 vaccinations started being rolled out to all 12-15 year-olds.  One dose of a COVID-19 vaccine gives good protection against your child getting seriously ill and can also help stop the spread of COVID-19 to other people, including in schools.

To date, 11.6% of 12-15 year-olds in Solihull have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine - this is similar to the overall England uptake of 11.7%.

Most children will be given their vaccine at school during school hours and parents or guardians will get a letter or email with information about when the vaccine will be offered and asked to give consent.

Ruth Tennant
Director of Public Health, Solihull Council

Below are useful links to find out where you can get a vaccine, how to book, and how to get a test.