politics

Priti Patel calls Covid vaccine queue jumpers ‘morally reprehensible’ after Standard exposé


H

ome Secretary Priti Patel has described vaccine queue jumpers as “morally reprehensible” after a Standard investigation revealed how people were exploiting an IT loophole to secure jabs.

Ms Patel told a Downing Street press conference: “Quite frankly it is morally reprehensible because these individuals are putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk – the most vulnerable that have been prioritised by the Government to receive the vaccine.  

“They are vulnerable in the sense that they are susceptible to not just contracting the virus but could die from this deadly virus.”

She made the comments in response to a question about whether the Government would consider fining queue jumpers.  

The Home Secretary added: “As I have always said, we say as a Government as well, all our measures are under review.  

“But quite frankly right now our world-class, world-leading vaccine roll-out programme is there for the most vulnerable people. 

“We prioritise our cohorts and our groups and our focus is getting our vaccine to the most vulnerable to make sure that we can protect them and others in the community as well.”

Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS England regional medical director for London, also said it was “morally reprehensible”. 

He told the briefing: “People are being called in priority order so that we can vaccinate those most at risk of serious illness first.

“To seek to do this is denying some of the most vulnerable people in our community a life-saving vaccine.

“Let me be really clear about this: it is morally reprehensible to try and jump the queue and anyone who books to get the vaccine fraudulently will be turned away.”

The Standard investigation found that links to an online booking system by Swiftqueue, which is being used by some NHS trusts to coordinate vaccine appointments for staffs, were being shared through social media and messaging apps.

This paper saw evidence that people who are not staff or on the vaccine priority list have managed to use the portal to get vaccinated in east London and other parts of the country.

It comes after a link meant for staff at the East London NHS Foundation Trust [ELFT] was shared outside the mental health trust’s community.  

Our investigator was able to use the link to book an appointment for 9.50am yesterday with the follow up jab scheduled for the same time on April 5 at the Westfield vaccination centre in Stratford.

We cancelled the appointments after booking to ensure that no-one was being deprived of a jab and there were a number of free appointments still available throughout the day.

(

Our investigator was able to use the link to book a next-day appointment and a follow up jab in April at the Westfield vaccination centre in Stratford 

/ Lucy Young )

There has also been reports of people, who are not yet eligible, using similar portals to sign up for jabs elsewhere.

He told the Standard: “The vaccine programme is designed to save lives and reduce hospitalisations by prioritising those most in need.  

“This loophole leaves many vulnerable and at risk waiting longer for life saving jabs.  Ministers must intervene and stamp out this queue jumping.”

Swiftqueue issued a strongly worded statement, warning that: “Anyone who books to get the vaccine fraudulently will be turned away – full stop.”

Their CEO Brendan Casey said: “Some people have used links shared with them to try and falsely get the Covid vaccine.  

“If they book and attend the clinic to try and jump the queue and they do not have proof of eligibility and they will be turned away.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “This is the biggest vaccination rollout in our history and it’s right that we vaccinate the most vulnerable people first. People that try to bypass the rules will only be wasting the time of healthcare professionals on the frontline.

“People who attend a vaccination centre have to provide proof they have personally been invited, as well as identification, and anyone who has tried to circumnavigate the system will be turned away.”

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “It is of course our position that nobody should be seeking to queue jump. 

“We’ve set out why we are prioritising those we are – given the increased risk that those groups face.  

“It’s important that we provide protection to those who are most at clinical risk.”



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