There was a discussion in the Health & Wellbeing Board of Liverpool Council yesterday about the effects of Covid-19 in Liverpool and the rollout of vaccination to prevent it.
No-one was at all surprised when the figures showed two things:
- That a disproportionate number of people from the poorest wards had not yet taken up the vaccination offers that were available to them.
- That a disproportionate number of people from the poorest wards of the City had died of the virus.
Of course, there are clear linkages between the two. Before looking at them in more detail let me update you on yesterday’s figures:
In the week beginning 27th March there were 44 active corona cases in the City and a rate of 8.8/100kcases/week. Today that figure is 729 active cases and a rate of 146/100k/week. This figure is appalling BUT it’s less that one third of the rate in other parts of the North West, especially in the Greater Manchester area. There is a very clear warning that the hotspots of the North will not only fill in gaps in the North West but will spread nationwide.
Wards like Central and Greenbank were at the top of the illness problem whilst wards like Church, Childwall and Woolton were least affected although even there the numbers are still rising.
This is almost a total reverse of the illness rates. In Picton ward there has been a 57-60% take up in vaccination whilst in wards like Church and Woolton the take up is 90%+ This is not because the GPs, who are leading the vaccination process, are better or worse in those areas but structural problems of language, transient life styles and some aspects of faith create barriers which we need to be active in breaking.
In total 276,000 adults have had their first dose (61%) and 205,000 have had their second dose and were as safe as they could be given that no vaccine is 100% efficient.
Why do poor people die earlier?
The coronavirus has accentuated what has always been the case. In most urban areas there is a 10-year age difference in life expectancy between the area’s richest neighbourhoods and poorest. Remember how the Covid death figures used to be introduced? Something like, “1,000 people died today of which 900 had underlying health problems”.
Most of those problems relate to problems caused either by lifestyle or poverty and there are often key links between the two. If you live in a damp home you are more likely to have bronchial problems. That’s related to poverty. If you smoke, you’ll have bronchial problems. That’s related to poverty. But people in poor conditions are more likely to smoke for comfort thus creating a double whammy. If you have bronchial conditions the virus is more likely to attack your weakened system and kill you although, because of what the NHS has learned, the number of deaths or even very serious illnesses is mercifully much reduced.
You can take a whole range of other facts such as poor mental health related to poverty and loneliness which feature much more heavily in the lifestyles in deprived areas. They all increase your ability to cope with stresses caused by the corona virus.
How do we correct the disparities?
In the short-term we just have to get out their and vaccinate more people. We heard yesterday of the work being done by people of all faiths, community leaders, community groups and local councillors to get the vaccination message out. Busses are going out to the areas accompanied by people to door knock and encourage take up.
If necessary, people can be inoculated in their own home. But the figures are worrying. A GP practice can inoculate 600 – 1,000 people a day; a bus visit 200 – 250; a personal visit might cut that to just 100.
In the long-term we need to provide people with safe and warm homes; in neighbourhoods which are clean, safe and well managed and with enough money in their pocket to provide the basics and a few luxuries and a bit of a holiday.
“How can we afford to pay for that?”, some people will ask? The answer is that it is cheaper to the state to give people these conditions than give them bad conditions. So much of what the Governments spends subsidises poor housing and deals with the effects of poor health. Someone in a standard hospital bed costs about £550 a night. Providing them with a decent home which is damp and draught proof might cost as little as £2,500. Less money in the short term giving better lives in the long term.
What can we all do now?
Be safe and be sensible!! Even if the final vestiges of lockdown would have been removed on Monday it will make little difference to me. I have been out for a meal once since restaurants reopened and that was on a quiet night in a place which has voluntarily reduced capacity for diners by about 50%. I will continue for the foreseeable future to wear a mask in shops and on public transport. I will continue to socially distance. I will continue to have limited numbers of people in my own home for their safety and of mine.
As a Councillor I will continue to publish corona safety messages and to encourage everyone who hasn’t yet been vaccinated to go and do so.
It is our duty to keep ourselves safe because if we do that, we are helping to keep others safe as well. None of us are safe until we are all safe because whilst the virus still has people to infect it has the opportunity to mutate and create variants which may make even the vaccinated ill again.
I don’t regard wearing a mask as being an attack on my civil liberties but as a basic sign that I am undertaking my responsibilities to the community that I live in with care and attention. A mask to me is a signal of pride not, as some claim, a symbol of servitude.