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Britain dishes out a record 366,919 Covid jabs – 200 a MINUTE

Britain’s vaccine roll out has hit the rate of 200 jabs a minute, putting the Government on track to hit its target of inoculating 13.9million people by mid-February as a record 366,919 coronavirus vaccine doses were dishout out yesterday.

The UK’s huge vaccination drive, which has rallied after a slowdown over the weekend, has now given first doses to almost 5million people. 

Britain must reach at least 350,000 people every day for the next month to hit the goal of immunising the most vulnerable people in the country by February 15, when Boris Johnson plans to review lockdown rules – although it remains unlikely they will be loosened before March even if that target is achieved.

Speaking in the commons today Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people should take ‘comfort in the fact we’re giving 200 vaccinations every minute’, later adding that the UK is ‘vaccinating at a greater daily rate than any other country in Europe and at over double the rate of France, Spain & Germany’.

NHS chiefs today published the most detailed breakdown so far of local vaccination rates, revealing a postcode lottery favouring rural areas. Medics in Cumbria and the North East have handed out 10 times more vaccines than those in Shropshire.

An impressive 10 per cent of the population in Gloucestershire have had a jab already, compared to just 3.6 per cent of East Londoners. Herefordshire and Worcestershire also managed to immunise one in 10 of their residents by January 17.

Coverage appears to be higher in more rural areas and lower in cities, with the lowest vaccination rates in London and the East Midlands.

The 10 areas most advanced in their rollout have managed to immunise 71 per cent of their over-80s already, with Gloucestershire the highest at 85 per cent. For comparison, the worst-performing areas, mostly in London, had managed fewer than half by January 17. 

Rural areas tend to have higher average ages among their residents and more elderly people, which may give them access to more vaccine doses to distribute, while inner cities will have to wait until younger people become eligible.  

Boris Johnson has warned achieving the February target will be ‘very hard’ but it has emerged today that No10 is only aiming to ‘offer’ the jabs to that number of people and it won’t declare failure if they aren’t all delivered on time. Government sources admit not everyone will take up the invitation, with polls indicating that a fifth of the population might refuse.

In echoes of when the Department of Health posted thousands of tests so it could claim it had done 100,000 in a day, the technicality raises the prospect that the target could be technically hit well before 13.9million doses have been administered – although it’s still possible the jabs will actually be given.

However, MPs warned that ‘under-delivering’ and then claiming to have achieved the goal ‘won’t wash’.

Even if everyone does take it up, scientists say, the country still won’t reach herd immunity strong enough to stamp out the virus completely. Analysis from the University of East Anglia (UEA) found that the efficacy of current vaccines, combined with the emergence of more infectious variants of the virus, mean keeping the R below one without lockdown restrictions could become impossible.

Vaccines may not give herd immunity, shock study warns

Britain won’t achieve herd immunity with the current coronavirus vaccines even if every single Briton is injected, a study claimed today. 

Analysis from the University of East Anglia (UEA) say that even if every man, woman and child in the UK gets both doses of the Oxford jab it would only bring the R — the average number of people each patient infects — down to 1.3. 

But, because this vaccine is approved for over-18s only, the R could remain at about two when curbs are lifted completely.

The study found Pfizer’s jab – which is more effective at blocking coronavirus than the Oxford one – is capable of bringing the R below one and achieving herd immunity but it would require inoculating teenagers. Currently the jab is only approved for over-16s. 

Researchers warned it would ‘likely be impossible’ to hit the 82 per cent target needed for herd immunity because ‘people will refuse the vaccine’.

Scientists have always known eradicating Covid was an impossible task and the goal of the vaccine programme is not to prevent all transmission from occurring. Herd immunity occurs when enough of the population is immune to an infectious disease, stopping it from spreading.

Instead, the UK’s scheme is aimed at preventing the most vulnerable from dying or falling sick and piling pressure on the NHS. It’s hoped that once all vulnerable groups are immunised, the disease will become more manageable and restrictions can be gradually lifted.

But scientists on the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned today that the strict shutdown will need to remain in place until at least May because of the current pace of the vaccine rollout. Boris Johnson has promised to consider easing restrictions in mid-February once the 14million most vulnerable people have been given their first dose of the jabs.

Britain’s vaccine rollout appeared to get back on track yesterday after an alarming blip between Saturday and Monday. 

And today the number appears to have risen by another 321,000 in England alone.

Mr Johnson yesterday insisted that the target was still on schedule, but warned ‘constraints on supply’ were making the situation harder.  

Government insiders told MailOnline the vaccinations are not mandatory and ‘no-one expects to get 100 per cent in every category’. 

‘Some people will refuse to have a jab,’ they said. ‘We are trying all the time to encourage people to take up the offer.’

Divides are emerging already in the vaccination programme with rural areas appearing to come off better than inner cities, and particularly London.

This has seemed to have been the case with the spread of the disease, with smaller outbreaks in the countryside in the cities, and now the vaccine roll-out is going faster in the shires and less populated areas.

Gloucestershire is top of the list on a person-by-person basis, having reached 85 per cent of its over-80s – the top priority group – and 10.4 per cent of its population as a whole. It had reached 62,140 people by January 17.

Other areas in the 10 NHS networks to have covered the largest sections of their populations – all with 7.9 per cent or higher – were Herefordshire and Worcestershire; Humber, Coast and Vale; Lancashire and South Cumbria; Northamptonshire; Cumbria and North East; Hampshire and the Isle of Wight; Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly; Birmingham and Solihull; and Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Between them those areas, which have a combined population of around 12.4million people, according to NHS figures from 2016, handed a total 1.173million vaccines to 1.057million people between December 8 and January 17.

On average, they reached 8.6 per cent of their overall population, and 71.4 per cent of all residents over the age of 80.

At the other end of the scale, areas that reached the smallest proportions of their populations were:  East London; North West London; South East London; Cambridgeshire and Peterborough; Nottingham and Nottinghamshire; North London, and Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin. All reached five per cent of fewer of their populations. 

They reached 47.5 per cent of their over-80s, on average, with the lowest coverage in Nottinghamshire where just 43.2 per cent of elderly people had received a coronavirus vaccine.

WHICH AREAS ARE AHEAD IN ENGLAND’S VACCINE ROLLOUT?  (NHS England data for December 8 to January 17, ranked by proportion of total population to have received a vaccine)
AREA NAME People vaccinated % of over-80s
% of population
Gloucestershire 62,140 85.3% 10.4%
Herefordshire and Worcestershire 77,481 76.2% 9.7%
Humber, Coast and Vale 127,580 67.8% 9.1%
Lancashire and South Cumbria 145,625 75.7% 9.1%
Cumbria and North East 243,990 78.2% 8.1%
Hampshire and the Isle of Wight 146,285 70.8% 8.1%
Northamptonshire 56,562 69.7% 8.1%
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Health and Social Care Partnership 40,039 53.4% 8.0%
Birmingham and Solihull 86,749 66.3% 7.9%
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire 70,916 70.6% 7.9%
The areas used are NHS networks called sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) or Integrated Care Systems (ICS) 

Some research has suggested up to a fifth of the public could turn down the vaccine invite. There is not believed to be any specific target for take-up in Whitehall, with the aim to cover ‘as many people as possible’.

Mr Johnson said when launching the target that doses will be ‘offered’ to individuals in the groups. 

But at PMQs yesterday he suggested the commitment went further, saying the government is ‘on track to deliver a first vaccine to everyone in the top four cohorts by mid-February’.

Nadhim Zahawi also tweeted on January 4 that the government was aiming for 13.9million jabs by mid-February – using jab emojis in his message.   

One senior Labour MP said everyone wanted the rollout to succeed, regardless of their party.

But they warned that claiming to have ‘invited’ the 13.9million in highest priority groups ‘won’t wash’. 

‘They have just raised expectations. They should have managed expectations,’ the MP said.  

‘What voters want is competence. The problem with this lot is the level of competence is unbelievable. That is cutting through to people.’

WHICH AREAS ARE BEHIND IN ENGLAND’S VACCINE ROLLOUT? (NHS England data for December 8 to January 17, ranked by proportion of total population to have received a vaccine) 
AREA NAME People vaccinated % of over-80s
% of population
East London Health and Care Partnership 68,858 48.50% 3.6%
North West London Health and Care Partnership 80,895 45.70% 4.0%
Our Healthier South East London 73,697 45.70% 4.3%
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough 40,745 45.70% 4.5%
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Health and Care 48,358 43.20% 4.8%
North London Partners in Health and Care 68,601 55.10% 4.9%
Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin 25,113 49% 5.0%
Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes 47,551 56.10% 5.3%
West Yorkshire and Harrogate 139,678 63.60% 5.6%
South West London Health and Care Partnership 84,302 56.60% 5.6%
The areas used are NHS networks called sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) or Integrated Care Systems (ICS) 
Nadhim Zahawi tweeted on January 4 suggesting that the government target is for 13.9million jabs by mid-February – using jab emojis in his message

Nadhim Zahawi tweeted on January 4 suggesting that the government target is for 13.9million jabs by mid-February – using jab emojis in his message

Jonathan Van-Tam’s mother gets Covid jab 

The 79-year-old mother of England’s deputy chief medical officer has had her coronavirus vaccination.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has previously spoken about encouraging his mother, Elizabeth Van-Tam, to be ready to receive the vaccine when she got the call.

Prof Van-Tam, who said his mother calls him ‘Jonny’, said he had told her it was ‘really important’ to get the jab ‘because you are so at risk’.

She had her vaccination on Thursday at a GP surgery in Whittlesey, six miles east of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

Ms Van-Tam, who turned 79 this month, said afterwards: ‘I was really happy to get my Covid-19 vaccine.

‘While I’ve had lots of reminders from Jonathan, I needed no encouragement when I received my phone call.

‘The jab didn’t hurt at all and the NHS staff were excellent.

‘I would encourage everyone to take up the offer when it comes.’ 

Ms Van-Tam said: 'While I’ve had lots of reminders from Jonathan, I needed no encouragement when I received my phone call'

Ms Van-Tam said: ‘While I’ve had lots of reminders from Jonathan, I needed no encouragement when I received my phone call’

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England

The former minister added: ‘They are doing what they have done throughout, they are over-promising and under-delivering.  

‘What you’ve got is this happy puppy act that the PM does with ”everything is going to be wonderful”.’

Fresh issues were emerging in the vaccine rollout today, with Matt Hancock warning about ‘lumpy’ supplies amid claims stock are being diverted from the North East and Yorkshire to other areas that are lagging behind.

London and Suffolk have been a long way off the pace, with MPs complaining that the formula being used to distribute batches is based on low flu vaccine takeup from last year.   

One vaccine hub in Durham is said to have had to cancel 900 appointments recently because a delivery of doses did not arrive.  

GP surgeries said they are ‘ready to go’ but don’t have supplies, amid concern from some over-80s that they are yet to be called up for their jabs.

Helen Salisbury, who runs a GP practice in Oxford, said that there is a ‘problem with supplies’, and told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: ‘What I’m hearing more and more is we’re ready, we just don’t have the vaccine. It is a problem with supply.

‘It’s not that we order and we get what we ask for, we get what we’re given. There’s lots of practices ready to go, but we don’t have the supply yet.’ 

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock admitted that the situation was ‘challenging’. 

‘The challenge to supply is, essentially, that we have a lumpy supply,’ he said.

‘The manufacturers are working incredibly hard to deliver the supply as fast as possible, and I pay tribute to them and their work, but it is challenging and therefore it isn’t possible to give certainty as far out as many GPs and those delivering on the ground would like – because the worst thing would be to give false certainty.

‘We do try to give information about what is coming next week, but going further out than that, until the supply smooths out, which I’m sure it will over time, I think that would give false certainty and the worse thing would be to have GPs across the country booking in large numbers of people and then having to reschedule those appointments unnecessarily.’ 

Emergency services had to work through the night to protect a factory and warehouse involved in making a Covid-19 vaccine as Storm Christoph saw thousands of people including entire villages evacuated amid major flooding. 

Gullies were built to protect the crucial site at Wrexham Industrial Estate in North Wales, which employs 400 people who are involved in making the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine that is also stored there. 

Meanwhile, Tony Blair has called for 600,000 vaccinations to be carried out each day to enable almost all Covid restrictions to be lifted by mid-May, four months earlier than currently planned.

The former prime minister said an accelerated rollout, as vaccine production is stepped up, could see the country move back to Tier Three restrictions in late February and Tier One as soon as early April. 

Most remaining restrictions could be lifted as soon as around 70 per cent of adults have been vaccinated – mid-May under Mr Blair’s plans.