But, on Monday morning, Nadhim Zahawi, the Vaccine Deployment Minister, clarified that letters to over-70s and clinically vulnerable people would only begin in areas where “the majority of the over-80s” have been successfully vaccinated.
That appeared to exclude London, where only 29.5 per cent of over-80s had been treated according to the first regional statistics published last week. By contrast the North East and Yorkshire had hit 44 per cent, and the North West was at 36 per cent.
Asked on Sky News to confirm that letters would only go out in places that had vaccinated over half of their over-80s, Mr Zahawi said: “Correct. Absolutely right.”
He said some “amazing” areas had vaccinated 90 per cent of over-80s, while Darlington had completed all their care homes residents. Other areas would get more vaccine supplies and more help “to make sure that they’re able to vaccinate the majority of the over-80s and finish their care homes, and then move to the over-70s as well”.
He urged people not to worry if they had not yet been contacted: “We will make sure that they all get that offer of a vaccine by mid-February.”
NHS London said last week’s figures for London were already out of date and new data was due on Monday.
More than 3.8 million people in the UK – including over-80s, care home residents, and NHS and social care staff – have already received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but from Monday it will be rolled out to the next two priority groups.
The Government said it would remain the priority to vaccinate those in the first two groups, but that sites which have enough supply and capacity to vaccinate more people will be allowed to offer jabs to the next cohorts.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said that a coronavirus patient is admitted to hospital “every thirty seconds” – but that the health service is vaccinating at a rate of “140 jabs a minute”.