politics

Supply delays could hit February target to get 15 million vaccinated, minister admits


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elays in delivering Covid-19 vaccine supplies could hit the goal to offer the jabs to nearly 15 million high-priority people by mid-February, a Cabinet minister admitted today.

More than 4.2 million people have already had the jabs in the UK but the daily number being administered fell to 204,076 first doses on Monday, down from 324,233 last Friday.  

Asked on Times Radio whether Pfizer’s reduction in its deliveries over upcoming weeks would make “huge inroads” into the goal to vaccinate the four top priority groups in less than a month, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “It could do but I genuinely do not want to speculate on that right now because obviously if they are bolstering their manufacturing capacity they will also be able to produce much more vaccine and get a lot more vaccine out.”

The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told Sky News that more than 70 per cent of the population would have to be vaccinated to achieve “herd” immunity.  

He warned the current roll-out of vaccines would not take effect quickly enough to bring the UK pandemic under control.

Mask-wearing, social distancing and obeying the lockdown were the only way to bring the virus to heel, due to the 10-day gap between receiving a jab and immunity developing, Sir Patrick said.

He added that it was “quite likely” that jabs would have to be given every one or two years to maintain immunity.

He disputed claims from Israel that the first jab of the Pfizer vaccine only provided 33 per cent protection, saying it was likely to be far closer to the 89 per cent recorded in clinical trials.

It came as London fell further behind the rest of the country in the vaccine roll-out, and amid chaos at one overcrowded east London GP surgery with vulnerable patients fearing they may have caught covid while queueing for jabs.

GPs in Walthamstow were forced to apologise when patients complained about days of overcrowding at the Forest Road Medical Centre.

Patients told the Standard that they were forced to queue and pass other elderly patients on a narrow stairway and wait for long periods in unventilated rooms containing up to 40 people. 

One patient said she and her partner had been shielding for the last 10 months but now feared they could have contracted covid. “It’s left me worrying for the next 10 days,” she said. “It was scarily busy. We will probably feel some joy next week [from receiving the jab] if we have not got covid.”

Another patient said the surgery – which continued to treat other patients at the same time – should be closed immediately as a vaccination centre.  

“It was completely crazy in the waiting room,” she said. “I was number 25 in the queue. By the time I was called it was number 45.”

Waltham Forest clinical commission group said the problem was caused when it was “offered extra vaccines which we were not anticipating”.  

In a public apology, CCG chairman Ken Aswani said: “Rather than refuse them we agreed to take delivery and use them in the three days we have before they become unusable. This required contacting patients at short notice, and a doubling of staffing within hours.

“We acknowledge our shortcomings. Long queues formed outside in poor weather, and whilst we opened up more space in the building to try and bring people in out of the weather, this caused its own issues. The service provided was not up to the standard we seek to provide and which residents should rightly expect.

“This has caused huge pressure on staff trying to do their best in very difficult circumstances and has concerned and seriously inconvenienced a large number of our older residents – for which we apologise profusely.”

An extra 22,466 covid jabs were given in the capital yesterday, with only the South West administering fewer. The Midlands managed almost 33,000.

London’s total now stands at 439,691– the lowest figure of any region in England. This includes 388,437 first doses and 51,254 second doses.

A “simplistic” formula used to distribute the vaccines nationwide was blamed for supply problems in the capital.

As the Standard reported last week, distribution was done by giving equal numbers of vaccines to each primary care network across the country.

But because London PCNs contain more patients, there were fewer doses per head of population.



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