No10 told to ensure Covid vaccine uptake stays high seven-days-a-week

The number of people getting vaccinated against Covid in the UK has fallen for the third day in a row raising fears that the rollout has stalled over the weekend.

Some 204,076 people in Britain were vaccinated yesterday, January 18, with the total slumping from 225,000 on Sunday, 277,000 on Saturday and a dizzying high of 324,000 on Friday.

There are now a total of 4,026,501 people to have received their first dose of a Covid vaccine through the NHS programme – one in every 16 people in the UK – which makes it one of the best covered countries in the world.

But to make it to the Government’s target of 13.9million people by February 15, which is the threshold at which officials will consider relaxing lockdown, Britain must manage 360,000 jabs per day from today onwards – 2.5million per week. Last week it averaged 254,000 per day and hit a total 1.77million. The daily requirement will increase for every day that it isn’t hit.

Dr Duncan Robertson, an analyst at Loughborough University, said today: ‘The number vaccinated has fallen for three successive days. It would be useful to know what the vaccine supply schedule is over the next weeks and months, and the reason for this decrease.’

The reasons behind the slowdown are not clear – it could be a consequence of the Government focusing efforts and supplies on slow rollout areas so they can get to all over-80s, or it may be a bottleneck in supply. Ministers repeatedly warned last week that manufacturing speed was the ‘limiting factor’ and it has emerged that Pfizer, one of the two vaccine suppliers, has delayed its deliveries for the rest of January while it expands its factory.

It comes amid growing pressure on the NHS to run a 24/7 service after people noticed the number of jabs given out over the weekend was lower than in the week.  

A slowdown may be in part due to a strategy of focusing on areas that still have a lot of top priority over-80s to reach, with those areas operating slower than others.

No10 was told today it must ‘throw as much money as possible’ at the NHS to ensure coronavirus vaccine uptake stays high all week. 

At a Downing Street press conference last night, Health Secretary Matt Hancock brushed off questions about the lower uptake the weekend, urging people to look at the weekly averages rather than data from individual days.   

But think-tanks told MailOnline today that the drop was ‘both worrying and unwarranted in the face of the pandemic’, and called on ministers to ‘put money into it’, if it turned out that staffing issues was to blame. 

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran MP, who is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, told MailOnline: ‘Throughout this pandemic the Government has consistently overpromised and under delivered. 

‘When it comes to the vaccination program, the Government must avoid repeating the failures of our test and trace system and PPE supply chains to the frontline.’ 

It comes as an NHS trust in London today reportedly sent out an email to staff urging them to just turn up to get Covid vaccinations because leftover doses were at risk of expiring if they weren’t used by tomorrow morning.

Health and social care workers are in one of the top priority groups to get vaccinated, and people working in the vaccine supply chain will now also be prioritised to make sure deliveries are not interrupted.

Concerns about the speed of Britian’s rollout come as officials in Scotland and Wales have been accused of stockpiling vaccine stores and not using them as soon as possible. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said yesterday he didn’t want staff ‘standing round doing nothing’ later in the month if all jabs were used up now and Scottish Conservatives said today there are 400,000 doses that have been delivered to Scotland but not used yet.

Department of Health figures published today show that the number of people vaccinated against Covid-19 increased by 204,076 between Sunday and Monday. 

The number of people vaccinated in England, in particular was yesterday less than half as high as it was on Friday, January 15 – it fell from 320,894 to 154,564.

The UK total number of people getting jabs daily fell from 324,233 on Friday to 277,915 on Saturday to 225,407 on Sunday.

WHY HAVE COVID VACCINATIONS SLOWED DOWN? 

The reasons behind the slowdown are not clear – it could be a consequence of the Government focusing efforts and supplies on slow rollout areas so they can get to all over-80s, or it may be a bottleneck in supply.  

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference last night Mr Hancock said vaccine supply was the ‘rate-limiting factor’.

‘If you listen to voices on the ground in the NHS, you hear people saying ‘give us more supply and we will jab it into more arms’,’ he said. ‘We are shoveling it out as fast as we can.’

Pressure is mounting on the Government to dish out coronavirus vaccines 24/7, with Labour saying No10 ‘must deliver for the British people’ because the public ‘have sacrificed so much’.  

But ministers earlier claimed there was ‘no clamour’ for appointments beyond 8pm. 

It emerged last week that Pfizer is shrinking and delaying its deliveries to Europe while it expands its factory in Belgium.

The company makes one of just two vaccines that are being given to the public in the UK and confirmed that Britain would be affected in late January and February.  

Countries in the EU have criticised Pfizer for shrinking its deliveries as it emerged Norway would get a batch 18 per cent smaller than expected next week.

A spokesperson at the company told the Financial Times: ‘Although this will temporarily impact shipments in late January to early February, it will provide a significant increase in doses available for patients in late February and March.’

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To hit its target of 13.9million people by February 15, which is the Prime Minister’s target before he can start to think about loosening lockdown restrictions in March, the nation must manage 360,000 per day, and this number will increase for every day that the target isn’t hit.

The Adam Smith Institute think-tank told MailOnline today there seemed to be a ‘lackadaisical approach to Saturdays and Sundays’.

Deputy director Matt Kilcoyne said the blip in figures was ‘both worrying and unwarranted in the face of the pandemic’.

‘Knowing as we do that every hour counts, every day counts… there is no reason why the UK could not have the same vaccination rollout rate as Israel,’ he added.  

Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs, said NHS staff needed to be congratulated on the ‘great job’ they’ve done with the vaccine roll out so far. 

But he added: ‘The NHS is bit of a five day week service in many ways and if it comes down to staffing then we need to put more money into it. If you give people strong financial incentives it makes people want to work seven days a week.’ 

Ministers are piloting 24/7 vaccinations after Boris Johnson came under immense scrutiny for claiming there was ‘no clamour’ for appointments beyond 8pm. But the inconsistencies at the weekend will raise concerns about whether No10 can deliver.

Mr Snowdon told MailOnline ‘money should be no object’ when it comes to the vaccine rollout because the benefits of immunising the entire country and ending the economically-crippling lockdowns would outweigh any cost.

He said: ‘At the moment they’re only paying GPs commission on jabs given to care home residents, but they [the Government] should pay commission for every patient. 

‘It seems that we need more staff, and the staff we’ve got need to work longer hours, so they have to throw as much money as possible at it.’ 

Public Health England last night blamed the lower weekend figures on reporting delays and the Health Secretary insisted the roll-out was a ‘full seven-day service’ with the Government ‘prepared to go 24/7’.

When asked about the drop in figures at the press briefing, Mr Hancock said: ‘The vaccine delivery is absolutely delivering a full seven-day service and we are prepared to go 24/7.

STAFF AT LONDON HOSPITAL INVITED TO ‘WALK-IN’ JABS TO USE UP SPARE DOSES 

Staff at a London hospital were sent an email today urging them and colleagues to get impromptu Covid jabs because it had doses that were at risk of being ‘wasted’ if they aren’t used by tomorrow morning.

‘We still have a large amount of walk-in vaccination appointments available today for FIRST DOSE vaccinations for staff’, staff said in an email tweeted by EveryDoctor, a campaign group run by NHS doctors.

The email continued: ‘This batch of vaccinations need to be used by 8.15am tomorrow or they will be wasted.’ 

Staff were ‘actively encouraged’ to book in for a walk-in vaccination. 

EveryDoctor tweeted: ‘Covid-19 vaccine doses may be wasted because NHS hospitals are not allowed to give 2nd doses (a full vaccine course) to NHS staff.

‘The Government needs to change this now to protect staff and patients.’ 

It comes after local NHS leaders are said to have issued vaccine disposal instructions to doctors organising clinics, despite Professor Chris Whitty saying the UK’s roll-out of vaccinations was being held back by delayed deliveries of the Pfizer jab.

Some surgeries are taking a stand against the orders, described as ‘bordering on criminal’, but others fear their supplies will be cancelled if they don’t comply.

Supply chain uncertainty – particularly around the Pfizer jab which needs to be kept at -70C – means GPs are struggling to book the exact number of appointments for clinics and in some cases patients haven’t turned up having been given little time to prepare.

The NHS said there was ‘no reason’ why stocks should be wasted, insisting vaccination sites should make sure a back-up list of patients and staff who can get the jab at short-notice if there are such absences is drawn up.  

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‘I wouldn’t read too much into an individual day’s data, I think the best thing to do is look at weekly averages and, as you say, you can see that going up, and up fast.’

Mr Hancock said vaccine supply was the ‘rate-limiting factor’. ‘If you listen to voices on the ground in the NHS, you hear people saying ‘give us more supply and we will jab it into more arms’,’ he added. ‘We are shoveling it out as fast as we can.’  

Mr Hancock revealed that 4million Britons have now had a coronavirus vaccine, amid mounting claims that a ‘postcode lottery’ has left vulnerable people in certain areas unprotected.

With the successful roll-out of a Covid vaccine the only hope ministers have of being able to ease the lockdown restrictions this spring, the Health Secretary told the nation: ‘Don’t blow it now, we’re on the route out.’

The Health Secretary also admitted supplies of the only two approved jabs, made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca, are being prioritised to areas lagging behind in the roll-out.

It comes after another 7million Britons were sent invite letters to receive their coronavirus jabs from yesterday — but only in areas where the ‘majority’ of over-80s have had it already.

Discussing Britain’s growing Covid vaccine postcode lottery, Mr Hancock praised Slough for ensuring all of their care home residents have had their first dose. Newcastle-upon-Tyne has also achieved the feat.

But he said: ‘What we’re doing now is making sure that whilst they, of course, will be able to move onto the next group, we’re prioritising the supply of the vaccine into those parts of the country that need to complete the over-80s.

‘But we don’t want to stop the areas that have effectively done that job already, we want them to carry on, but the priority of the vaccine is according to the JCVI prioritisation list. The critical thing is to make sure that everybody can get it, that we’re putting more supply into the areas that have got more to do.’

Whitehall insiders believe the UK’s vaccine rollout is going so well that the wider adult population may be covered by June rather than September, with around 280,000 doses currently being administered each day. Ten new mass vaccination centres opened today, to speed up the programme even further. 

Staff at a London hospital were sent an email today urging them and colleagues to get impromptu Covid jabs because it had doses that were at risk of being ‘wasted’ if they aren’t used by tomorrow morning.

‘We still have a large amount of walk-in vaccination appointments available today for FIRST DOSE vaccinations for staff’, staff said in an email tweeted by EveryDoctor, a campaign group run by NHS doctors.

The email continued: ‘This batch of vaccinations need to be used by 8.15am tomorrow or they will be wasted.’ 

Staff were ‘actively encouraged’ to book in for a walk-in vaccination. 

EveryDoctor tweeted: ‘Covid-19 vaccine doses may be wasted because NHS hospitals are not allowed to give 2nd doses (a full vaccine course) to NHS staff.

‘The Government needs to change this now to protect staff and patients.’ 

It comes after local NHS leaders are said to have issued vaccine disposal instructions to doctors organising clinics, despite Professor Chris Whitty saying the UK’s roll-out of vaccinations was being held back by delayed deliveries of the Pfizer jab.

Some surgeries are taking a stand against the orders, described as ‘bordering on criminal’, but others fear their supplies will be cancelled if they don’t comply.

Supply chain uncertainty – particularly around the Pfizer jab which needs to be kept at -70C – means GPs are struggling to book the exact number of appointments for clinics and in some cases patients haven’t turned up having been given little time to prepare.

The NHS said there was ‘no reason’ why stocks should be wasted, insisting vaccination sites should make sure a back-up list of patients and staff who can get the jab at short-notice if there are such absences is drawn up. 

Concerns about the speed of the rollout come as Scotland and Wales have been criticised for sitting on supplies of the jabs.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the Scottish Government has received 717,000 doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines – but claimed that well over half of these had not yet been used. 

She said: ‘We know how many doses of vaccine have so far been delivered to Scotland, we know how many GP practices have agreed to take part in the process. The GPs know who their patients are and they know how to contact them.

‘The only thing that’s missing is for too many practices across Scotland they have not yet actually received any supplies.’ 

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, replied: ‘Supplies are allocated to Scotland, they are then drawn down to Scotland, and we vaccinate as quickly as we possibly can.  That will continue to be the case.

‘In terms of the doses that are in Scotland, many of them have already been put into people’s arms.’

Welsh leader Mark Drakeford yesterday came under fire for his strategy of rationing coronavirus vaccine doses to make them last until the next delivery in February, instead of using them as fast as possible. 

Mr Drakeford yesterday admitted Wales isn’t using up all of its doses of the Pfizer jab, claiming the ‘sensible’ thing to do is ration supplies so the programme could work steadily until next month and so staff aren’t ‘standing around with nothing to do’ if supplies run out.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister

Concerns about the speed of the rollout come as leaders in Scotland (Nicola Sturgeon, right) and Wales (Mark Drakeford, left) have been criticised for sitting on supplies of the jabs

But MPs slammed his plan as ‘dangerous’ and said the point of the programme is to protect elderly people from dying not to keep NHS staff busy.

Welsh Tory leader Paul Davies said: ‘You’d have thought from a government’s perspective they would’ve wanted to distribute the vaccines as soon as possible. I was flabbergasted by his comments.

‘This is a matter of life and death, and that’s why it’s so crucial now that they get these vaccines out to people as soon as possible.

‘To suggest that vaccines should be rolled out over a period of time so that vaccinators are not standing around with nothing to do is absolutely preposterous.

‘If we don’t get the vaccines out as soon as possible, and into people’s arms as soon as possible, then unfortunately more people are going to die.’

David Jones, MP for Clwyd West said the explanation was ‘wholly incoherent’. Mark Harper, MP for the Forest of Dean on the Welsh border, said it was ‘dangerous’ and that people needed vaccines as soon as was possible. And Stephen Crabb, the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said it was ‘deeply, deeply frustrating’.

Link hienalouca.com

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