Around a third of all social care staff have not had a first dose of the Covid vaccine, Matt Hancock admitted today despite the UK hitting its target.
Mr Hancock declared the UK had met its goal to offer a first dose to 15million over-70s, NHS and care workers, shielders and elderly care home residents.
But while more than 90% of over-70s have taken up the offer, that is far lower for NHS and social care staff, the Heath Secretary said.
After saying it was a “little bit lower than 90%”, Mr Hancock was pressed for exact numbers by BBC Breakfast. He said take-up was “around two-thirds” among social care staff and “around four-fifths” for NHS staff.
It comes after concerns that large numbers of social care staff could be refusing the jab – despite Boris Johnson hailing the target at a press conference tonight.
Mr Hancock said it was “important” for social care workers to get the jab as some may be travelling between several vulnerable people’s houses for their work.
“It’s higher in some groups”, he admitted. Addressing social care and health workers he said: “We want to see that go up.
“Anybody who is a health or care worker can contact their employer. And if you work in social care, then either contact your employer or come to the national booking system and contact the NHS to get your jab, if you haven’t yet been jabbed.”
Ministers and the NHS launched a vaccine take-up plan on Saturday to ensure hard-to-reach communities get the jab.
The plan includes charity engagement, “vaccination buses”, workplace WhatsApp groups and appointing “community champions” who have good standing locally to persuade people the jab is safe.
Mr Hancock went on: “For social care staff it’s around two-thirds, so we’ve still got a third who need to come forward. That’s obviously incredibly important.
“We’ll keep offering and keep contacting people who work in social care.
“This is not just in care homes but also people who go into elderly people’s homes to look after them in domiciliary care. Obviously the uptake there is very important.”
While detailed figures on take-up are published for different age groups in England, they are not currently published for NHS and social care staff or shielders.
As of February 7 in England, first doses had gone to 91.3% of people over 80, 95.6% of those aged 75-79 (now more than 97%), and 74% of those aged 70-74.
84.7% of England’s care home residents had the jab up to that point, rising to 93.2% excluding those who had Covid recently and were therefore ineligible at the time.
Mr Hancock, who said take-up was “incredibly important”, did not specify but it appears likely his figures were referring to England.
Boris Johnson is set to give a No10 press conference this evening as he celebrates hitting the milestone vaccine target.
The PM and key advisers will now begin plotting a path out of the latest coronavirus lockdown after meeting the goal.
He will outline an exit plan on February 22, with schools expected to reopen from March 8.
He is looking at once again allowing people to meet one other person, whom they do not live with, outside for recreation like a picnic from around March 8. That could allow grandparents to see grandchildren in the park.
But Mr Hancock dismissed reports that self-catering holidays and pubs could resume by Easter as “speculation”.
Restrictions on sports such as tennis and golf, where social distancing is easier, could be eased in April.
But Tory MPs pressed the PM to provide certainty over the restart of pubs and restaurants – which it’s thought could open any time between April and August.
Hospitality will only open after non-essential shops, despite pleas by Tory MPs to reopen pub beer gardens as soon as Easter.
Clinically vulnerable people and those aged 65 to 69 are being invited to book Covid-19 jabs as the vaccination programme moves to the next phase.
Almost 1.2 million letters were due to have landed on doorsteps over the weekend asking people to log on to the national booking service, with a further 1.2 million due to arrive this week.
Those due to be vaccinated now include unpaid carers, who fall into category six of the priority list – the at-risk group.
It includes those in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.
Carers UK chief executive Helen Walker said: “Being called for the vaccine in this next phase will bring many unpaid carers a huge sense of relief, having carefully managed the risk of the virus to themselves and their older or disabled relatives for almost a year.
“Carers should wait to be called to book an appointment, and once vaccinated some of the hardest-pressed carers will be able to access support with their caring role for the first time in many months.”