This bus used to ply the streets of Eltham – now it takes vaccines to communities in Greenwich and Thamesmead

Over 72,000 people in Greenwich borough have been given at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine – but fewer over-80s in and around Woolwich are getting jabs, a council meeting heard yesterday.

The town hall’s health and wellbeing board heard about the progress of the vaccination programme yesterday – and how “so much work needs to be done” to make sure all ethnic groups are getting the injections.

A new vaccination centre opens today at The Valley in Charlton as health services gear up to start delivering 20,000 jabs a week across the borough from the end of next month.

Jackie Davidson, the council’s assistant director of public health, said that 72,363 people have been vaccinated in the borough – with 87 per cent of over-75s having had a vaccination. This puts Greenwich ahead of Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth, but behind Bexley and Bromley, where the figure is 93 per cent.

Pointing out that deprivation can make vaccination hard to achieve, she said: “I think Greenwich has done extremely well – we are not as deprived as Lambeth or Southwark but certainly are compared to Bexley and Bromley. Some of the figures we are seeing are really quite incredible.”

But the figures vary around the borough, with uptake figures at 90.4 per cent of over-80s in Blackheath Westcombe ward, compared with 71.8 per cent in Woolwich Common ward. Figures in Glyndon, Plumstead, Woolwich Riverside and Charlton have also not yet reached 80 per cent.

The Valley
The Valley is due to become a vaccination centre from today

“That is the most deprived area,” Davidson said.

For the 70-74 and 75-79 age groups, there has been a similar picture, but uptake has also been lower in Peninsula and Greenwich West wards, as well as Thamesmead Moorings and Abbey Wood. A double-decker bus is bringing jabs to residents in west Greenwich and Thamesmead that are far from vaccination hubs.

In care homes, 94 per cent of residents have had a jab – the highest in the six boroughs that make up the south-east London healthcare area – but only 53 per cent of staff. “Right at the beginning they were the first to be offered it, and they felt like guinea pigs – that was the feedback,” Davidson said. “We’re now going back and doing a lot of work with them.”

Broken down by ethnicity, while 84 per cent of white people have taken up the offer of a jab, the figure falls to just 45 per cent for those with African heritage. The figures relate to over 65 or the clinically extremely vulnerable. “We were expecting it and we can see it, and we’ve got a long way to go with that,” Davidson said. (watch here from 52.46)

For those with Caribbean backgrounds, the figure is 52 per cent, with uptake at 71 per cent for people with Asian heritage.

“We need to do so much more to change those figures,” she added. Plans to tackle this include “deep engagement” in local communities to find ways to helping different groups, sending texts out in different languages as well as working with faith leaders and schools.

Over 300 community champions have also been recruited – with the council hoping to get 700 more to help spread the word.

With the borough’s estimated population being 286,000, the figures indicate that one in four people have so far had a vaccination.

Charlton House
Charlton House has been pressed into use as a vaccination centre

Neil Kennett-Brown, the Greenwich director for NHS South East London Clinical Commissioning Group, said there was a “a pinch point” in supplies of the vaccine at the moment, but more would arrive next week with “significantly more” the following week.

Val Davison, the chair of Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, said that as of Tuesday, 31 people were in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich with Covid-19, with four of those in intensive care – with a similar picture at Lewisham Hospital.

“The second wave has been incredibly hard and incredibly long,” she said. “It really started to build up over Christmas … and for much of January we had close on 500 Covid patients [across both hospitals]. To drop down to 62 across two hospitals is just amazing.”

However, she warned of a “massive backlog” of other work to get through, adding: “It’s only a little over a year since the first London Covid patient walked into Lewisham hospital and it hasn’t stopped since then.

“Our staff are physically and emotionally exhausted. There’s a very real worry about psychological wellbeing – whilst we’re doing a huge amount of counselling, the notion that we’re going to go back to business as usual isn’t going to happen, we’re going to have to take the recovery slowly and steadily at a pace that staff can manage.”

Edited on Friday to snip out references to The Valley being a mass vaccination centre – it’s being used by local NHS services rather than as part of the mass vaccination network.

  • To join Greenwich’s Community Champions programme or find out more, visit
  • Similar schemes operate in Lewisham and Bexley.

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