health

2 million jabs of cheer for London amid delight at landmark vaccination figure


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ondon was today on the cusp of having delivered two million Covid jabs as one of the UK’s top medics declared: “Our vaccines are working.”

The capital’s chief nurse said that “over 1.9 million” first and second doses had been given by Monday night and claimed there had been a “step change” in take-up among black and ethnic minority communities in inner London.

“So, yes! Our vaccines are working against the current variant,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

  • London is expected to hit the two million jabs landmark this week. Official figures last night showed 1,837,280 doses had been administered by Monday evening, including 1,769,695 first doses.
  • Martin Machray, joint chief nurse at NHS London, who has access to the latest data, told the London health board yesterday that just “over 1.8 million Londoners have had their first dose”.
  • Mayor Sadiq Khan was cautious, saying there was “still a long way to go” to get jabs to the 7.1 million Londoners eligible for vaccination. “There is a huge, huge mountain we have got to climb,” he said.
  • Education Secretary Gavin Williamson became the first Cabinet minister to back the idea of “vaccine passports”, suggesting he would be prepared to use one if it meant he could visit theatres, restaurants and cinemas.

He told LBC: “I think I would probably do pretty much sort of anything to be able to enjoy all those lovely things.

“I think the idea of going to a restaurant with your family or the theatre is something we all really want to see.”

On days of good supply about 40,000 jabs are given in London, meaning the two million total may be reached tonight. The first was given on December 8 at Croydon hospital to retired butcher George Dyer, 90.

Mr Machray said the vaccine roll-out offered “great hope in unlocking the city” and added: “It’s a really positive story of moving to nearly two million Londoners vaccinated.”

The target is now to offer a vaccine to all Londoners aged 50 and older in the next two months, and to all adult Londoners “by the end of July”, he said. But he added it was important not to underestimate how busy the NHS remained.

More than 2,700 Covid patients are in London hospitals, with more than 650 on ventilators, though admissions have fallen to 110 a day.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation, told the Commons science committee today that early data from the UK’s vaccine roll-out had been “incredibly encouraging”.

He said: “This one dose, delayed second dose strategy has really been quite effective in reducing deaths very, very quickly… everything that we see so far is very, very promising indeed.”

Professor Wendy Barclay, of Imperial College London, a member of the Sage and Nervtag advisory committees, said the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines were “working remarkably well”.

In general, she added: “There is good evidence that a single dose is having a significant effect.”

Research is underway into following a first dose from one manufacturer with a second dose from a different firm. This could provide “better and broader” protection, particularly against variant strains, Professor Harnden said.

“Until really these vaccines come up against those new variants in large scale, we will have to wait for those answers,” he added. “But I still think they are going to reduce the likelihood of having severe disease.”

Public health chiefs pleaded with Londoners to continue to obey the lockdown, saying there was a risk of infections flaring up in deprived communities with lowest vaccination rates if social distancing was abandoned.

It came as Professor Sir Sam Everington, chairman of the Tower Hamlets clinical commissioning group, said 87 per cent of the borough’s white residents had received a jab, compared with 77 per cent of Asian residents and 62 per cent of black residents. “That is enormously worrying for us,” he told the Today programme.

He said mass vaccination centres, such as ExCeL, were less popular with hesitant BAME communities, and called for GP surgeries to be given a bigger role. “People respond much better to the nurses and the GPs that they know, that’s easy to get to. There is an issue of the trust in the process. It’s absolutely key that you go somewhere that is familiar to you,” he said.

Professor Kevin Fenton, London director of Public Health England, said: “We must be vigilant because, as case rates decline, the areas where infections are likely to be concentrated will continue to be more deprived parts of our city — areas which are more ethnically diverse and, worryingly, areas which may have lower uptake of the vaccine.”



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