Elderly people in care homes are still dying of coronavirus despite receiving their first dose of the vaccine.
Care home bosses say the Government’s decision to give our most vulnerable just one dose in order to immunise the wider population could lead to tens of thousands of excess deaths.
Now they are pleading for that policy to be halted for just ONE DAY so 400,000 residents can get their vital second dose.
One boss said: “Why couldn’t they do that? It doesn’t make any sense not to.”
Coronavirus-related deaths in English care homes have shot up 46% in the past week – the highest increase since May.
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It brings the total UK residential Covid death toll to 32,000.
Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty said extending the maximum wait from three to 12 weeks was a public health decision to get the first jab to more people across the UK.
But care home bosses claimed it was a political choice that is gambling with their residents’ lives.
Geoff Butcher, chief executive of Blackadder Corporation which houses 250 residents, has already had three clients die despite the fact they received the vaccine on December 29.
Another two of his residents who also had jabs are now on end-of-life care.
And he knows of up to fifty people in other care homes who have died of coronavirus three weeks after having the first dose of the vaccine. Mr Butcher, 67, said: “The science was very clear – the guidance from Pfizer and AstraZeneca was that we need the second dose.
“But there was a political decision to vaccinate as many as possible.
“The Government says it is vaccinating 400,000 people a day. All we are asking is for the Government to halt vaccination of the one dose for just one day to administer the second dose to care homes now.
“Why wouldn’t they do that? It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Mark Adams, chief executive of social care charity Community Integrated Care, has also lost five residents who had been given their first jab.
Mr Adams, 57, said: “Some of these people were vaccinated three weeks earlier and they still get sick and die. People in mid-December got vaccinated, saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but passed away.
“That must be devastating for families because they must have thought the vaccine was their path out of it.
“My fear is that we’re not making much on an in-road into the sector where most of the deaths occur.
“Until we get to the bottom of what percentage of immunity we truly get on average, we’re gambling.”
Mr Butcher added: “We could see more excess care home deaths than we saw last year because we are seeing even more care homes getting outbreaks.
“Last year we saw around 50% of care homes getting outbreaks. We are already well north of that.
“Care homes might have fewer deaths individually because of the vaccine, but overall I think we could see more deaths in absolute terms.
“I also think we could see this second wave going on for much longer than the first.
“I think if we count absolute deaths, it’s going to be as high if not higher.Something has to be done very quickly.”
The Government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation claims the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is still effective with doses 12 weeks apart.
According to a paper published this month, Oxford-AstraZeneca is 64.1% effective after at least one standard dose.
Meanwhile the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is roughly 52% effective after the first dose but the protection does not kick in until at least day 12.
And Pfizer says its vaccine’s efficacy when two doses are given has only been tested up to 21 days apart.
Now the World Health Organization has recommended a gap of only four weeks between Pfizer doses – to be extended only in exceptional circumstances to six weeks.
Mr Butcher has joined the British Medical Association in calling on the Government to urgently close the gap on the vulnerable getting their second dose.
In a letter to Prof Whitty, the BMA said: “The absence of any international support for the UK’s approach is a cause of deep concern and risks undermining public and the profession’s trust in the vaccination programme.”
BMA members also fear that second doses of the Pfizer vaccine may not be available in 12 weeks.
A spokesperson told the Sunday People – which has been campaigning since last spring for care homes to be a priority – that they are urging Prof Whitty to urgently review the UK’s current position.
A further 32 vaccine sites are set to open across England next week.