- 204,076 people got their first Covid jabs yesterday, Monday January 18 – the lowest since this time last week
- It was down from 225,000 on Sunday, 277,000 on Saturday and a record high of 324,000 on Friday
- Think-tanks have urged the Government to ‘throw money’ at the rollout to make sure it works 7 days a week
- Efforts are now being focused on areas that have fallen behind pace on reaching top priority groups
The number of Brits getting vaccinated against Covid in the UK has fallen for the third day in a row, raising fears that the rollout has stalled over the weekend.
Some 204,076 people in Britain were vaccinated yesterday, January 18, with the total slumping from 225,000 on Sunday, 277,000 on Saturday and a high of 324,000 on Friday.
More than 4.26 million people have received their first dose of a Covid vaccine through the NHS programme – one in every 16 people in the UK – which makes it one of the best covered countries in the world.
But to hit the Government’s target of 13.9million people by February 15, which is the threshold at which officials will consider relaxing lockdown, Britain must manage 360,000 jabs per day from today onwards – 2.5million per week. Last week it averaged 254,000 per day and hit a total 1.77million. The daily requirement will increase for every day that it isn’t hit.
Dr Duncan Robertson, an analyst at Loughborough University, said today: ‘The number vaccinated has fallen for three successive days. It would be useful to know what the vaccine supply schedule is over the next weeks and months, and the reason for this decrease.’
The reasons behind the slowdown are not clear – it could be a consequence of the Government focusing efforts and supplies on slow rollout areas so they can get to all over-80s, or it may be a bottleneck in supply. Ministers repeatedly warned last week that manufacturing speed was the ‘limiting factor’ and it has emerged that Pfizer, one of the two vaccine suppliers, has delayed its deliveries for the rest of January while it expands its Belgian factory.
It comes amid growing pressure on the NHS to run a 24/7 service after people noticed the number of jabs given out over the weekend was lower than in the week.
At a Downing Street press conference last night, Health Secretary Matt Hancock brushed off questions about the lower uptake the weekend, urging people to look at the weekly averages rather than data from individual days. But think-tanks told MailOnline today that the drop was ‘both worrying and unwarranted in the face of the pandemic’, and called on ministers to ‘put money into it’, if it turned out that staffing issues was to blame.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, told MailOnline: ‘Throughout this pandemic the Government has consistently over-promised and under delivered. When it comes to the vaccination program, the Government must avoid repeating the failures of our test and trace system and PPE supply chains to the frontline.’
It comes as an NHS trust in London today reportedly sent out an email to staff urging them to just turn up to get Covid vaccinations because leftover doses were at risk of expiring if they weren’t used by tomorrow morning.
Health and social care workers are in one of the top priority groups to get vaccinated, and people working in the vaccine supply chain will now also be prioritised to make sure deliveries are not interrupted.
Concerns about the speed of the rollout come as officials in Scotland and Wales have been accused of stockpiling vaccine stores and not using them as soon as possible. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said yesterday he did not want staff ‘standing round doing nothing’ later in the month if all supplies of the jabs were used now. Scottish Conservatives said today there are 400,000 doses that have been delivered to Scotland but not used yet.
With 27 days left for the Government to hit its target of vaccinating 13.9million people by February 15:
- Number 10 insisted all areas have had equal access to the coronavirus vaccine, with the Prime Minister’s spokesperson saying ministers had ‘ensured’ everywhere received the same supplies;
- Doctors on the frontlines have complained limited supplies are hampering Britain’s largest ever jab rollout, claiming they could do more with more regular deliveries;
- A GP helping to organise jab appointments in Sheffield revealed over-80s have been texted to secure slots, saying he feared it may mean many elderly residents are missing their jabs;
- A racecourse hosting a Covid vaccination hub that provides up to 1,500 jabs daily is temporarily halting the service to enable its horse racing to continue;
- Up to 2,000 people working in roles in the Covid vaccine supply chain will be offered jabs to help ensure the UK gets the doses it needs to protect the most vulnerable, the Government has announced.
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Why has Britain’s Covid vaccination programme slowed down?
The reasons behind the slowdown are not clear – it could be a consequence of the Government focusing efforts and supplies on slow rollout areas so they can get to all over-80s, or it may be a bottleneck in supply.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference last night Mr Hancock said vaccine supply was the ‘rate-limiting factor’.
‘If you listen to voices on the ground in the NHS, you hear people saying ‘give us more supply and we will jab it into more arms’,’ he said. ‘We are shoveling it out as fast as we can.’
Pressure is mounting on the Government to dish out coronavirus vaccines 24/7, with Labour saying No10 ‘must deliver for the British people’ because the public ‘have sacrificed so much’.
But ministers earlier claimed there was ‘no clamour’ for appointments beyond 8pm.
It emerged last week that Pfizer is shrinking and delaying its deliveries to Europe while it expands its factory in Belgium.
The company makes one of just two vaccines that are being given to the public in the UK and confirmed that Britain would be affected in late January and February.
Countries in the EU have criticised Pfizer for shrinking its deliveries as it emerged Norway would get a batch 18 per cent smaller than expected next week.
A spokesperson at the company told the Financial Times: ‘Although this will temporarily impact shipments in late January to early February, it will provide a significant increase in doses available for patients in late February and March.’
Department of Health figures published today show that the number of people vaccinated against Covid rose by 204,076 between Sunday and Monday.
The total number of coronavirus vaccine doses dished out — 208,641 — is higher because some patients were given their second jab.
Data also revealed the number of people vaccinated in England has fallen from 320,894 on Friday to 167,150 in the past 24 hours.
Across Britain as a whole, the total number of people getting jabs daily fell from 324,233 on Friday to 277,915 on Saturday to 225,407 on Sunday.
To hit its target of 13.9million people by February 15, which is the Prime Minister’s target before he can start to think about loosening lockdown restrictions in March, the nation must manage 360,000 per day, and this number will increase for every day that the target isn’t hit.
The Adam Smith Institute think-tank told MailOnline today there seemed to be a ‘lackadaisical approach to Saturdays and Sundays’.
Deputy director Matt Kilcoyne said the blip in figures was ‘both worrying and unwarranted in the face of the pandemic’.
‘Knowing as we do that every hour counts, every day counts… there is no reason why the UK could not have the same vaccination rollout rate as Israel,’ he added.
Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs, said NHS staff needed to be congratulated on the ‘great job’ they’ve done with the vaccine roll out so far.
But he added: ‘The NHS is bit of a five day week service in many ways and if it comes down to staffing then we need to put more money into it. If you give people strong financial incentives it makes people want to work seven days a week.’
Ministers are piloting 24/7 vaccinations after Boris Johnson came under immense scrutiny for claiming there was ‘no clamour’ for appointments beyond 8pm. But the inconsistencies at the weekend will raise concerns about whether No10 can deliver.
Mr Snowdon told MailOnline ‘money should be no object’ when it comes to the vaccine rollout because the benefits of immunising the entire country and ending the economically-crippling lockdowns would outweigh any cost.
He said: ‘At the moment they’re only paying GPs commission on jabs given to care home residents, but they [the Government] should pay commission for every patient.