A MAYOR and an MP have clashed after health officials denied the North-east is missing out on covid jabs.
Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston shared his frustration on Tuesday after claiming the region was “not among nine areas on target to give over-50s their first vaccine by March 9”.
The Government has set a target of April 15 to get first jabs to all those aged over 50, as well those classed as vulnerable.
Mr Preston said the region, Teesside and Middlesbrough were “initially ahead of the game” – but claimed the Government had “insisted” on redirecting vaccine supplies down south to areas which had “fallen behind”.
NHS England says there is no March 9 target – and there is no diversion of vaccines happening.
The mayor’s claims were also vehemently denied by Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.
NHS figures show the North-east and Yorkshire had seen 2,024,206 first vaccine doses administered up to February 14.
This cumulatively put the region third, below the Midlands and the south-east, but above London, the south-west, north-west and east of England.
But Mr Preston believed the North-east appeared to have fallen behind.
The mayor added: “At a time when there’s much Government talk about “levelling up” between the north and south, this strikes me as more akin to levelling down.
“Something definitely not right about this.”
Mr Clarke, who has been quick to speak out about criticism and questions about the vaccination programme, hit out at the independent mayor.
The Tory MP said: “What the mayor says is simply untrue.
“Vaccines are not being diverted from the North-east and it is deeply irresponsible to say otherwise.
“All areas receive their share of the vaccines proportionate to their population – and the North-east has consistently led the way in vaccinating the most vulnerable in our society.
He added: “Rather than playing political games about things he doesn’t understand, the mayor would be best advised to focus on reducing covid rates in Middlesbrough and encouraging public confidence in what is a hugely successful national vaccine programme.”
The NHS is co-ordinating the vaccine roll out.
Last month, there were concerns about the number of jabs allocated to the region being cut to help other areas of the country catch up.
Analysis by the Telegraph has suggested nine areas of the country are forecast to have administered the covid vaccine to over 50s by early March – including Gloucestershire, Leicestershire and Devon – based on current jab rates.
However, none of the areas mentioned were in the North-east.
The Government says it has secured enough doses to vaccinate the whole country with plans to expand the roll out in the weeks ahead.
A Government spokeswoman added: “Nearly 2.4m people in the North-east and Yorkshire have had their first jab and this is one of the highest figures of any region in the country.
“Vaccines are being distributed fairly across the UK to make sure the most vulnerable people in society are immunised first.
“Some parts of the country have made very significant progress and have gone slightly faster than the average.
“We’re putting more supply into areas that have more to do – and the rollout of vaccinations will continue to expand at pace as we work to offer a vaccine to all over-50s by mid-April.”
Councillors have been told a mass vaccination centre is coming to Teesside “very soon” – with health chiefs considering the Riverside Stadium as a possible hub.