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Covid UK: Experts say vaccines drive needs to speed up

Britain has dished out 10 per cent of the entire world’s coronavirus vaccines, figures show — but critics have warned against complacency as data suggests the national rollout has ‘hit a wall’. 

Despite its small population in the global standings, the UK has administered a whopping 13.5million out of 146million doses given out internationally. 

According to the statistics compiled by the Oxford University-based research platform Our World in Data, this puts Britain in third place behind only the US and China, which have far larger populations. 

The figures also show more doses have been dished out here than in France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined. European commission president Ursula von der Leyen today issued a grovelling apology for the EU’s jab shambles, admitting the bloc acted ‘late’ and was ‘over-confident’. 

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair today said the speed with which Covid jabs were developed and rolled out was an ‘inspiration’ but added that it was ‘unfair’ poorer countries were missing out due to a lack of a global strategy. 

Number 10’s pandemic response has come in for widespread criticism on the whole, although ministers have been roundly praised for their vaccine rollout being one step ahead of the rest of the world. Ministers spent more than £6billion developing and procuring the jabs — a fraction of the £200-plus billion spent on supporting businesses during the economically-crippling lockdowns — despite no guarantees any would work.

The UK Vaccines Taskforce, run by venture capitalist Kate Bingham, played a key role in secure huge numbers of doses of vaccines ahead of international competition. And the running of the Covid vaccine programme through the NHS, which operates a successful national flu vaccination scheme every year, has smoothed over the rollout.

But critics have warned against getting too complacent as latest figures from the Department of Health suggest the Covid drive has plateaued. The number of doses given to Brits on Monday rose by just one per cent compared to the same time last week, hovering at around 350,000. 

The Adam Smith Institute think-tank told MailOnline that while the programme had been a success so far, there was ‘no excuse’ for blips, because ‘the virus doesn’t sleep – the virus keeps spreading’. Despite concerns, Britain is within touching distance of delivering on its goal of vaccinating 15million of the most vulnerable by mid-February, which paves the way for the UK become one of the first countries to drop lockdowns completely.

Another 414,973 Britons received their first or second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine yesterday, figures published today reveal, up 10 per cent on the 376,922 jabs recorded the same time last week. But this was a marked slowdown from the week before when the number administered jumped by 20 per cent.

It comes Department of Health figures today suggested the UK’s second wave is still shrinking. They announced another 13,013 cases, 32 per cent lower than the same time last week. A further 1,001 deaths from the virus were also reported, 24 per cent lower than last Wednesday. This took the total number of Covid deaths to 114,851. 

The top 30 countries where the highest number of doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered, with the UK in third place. The data was from Our World in Data, which monitors the vaccines rollout across the world

And this is the number of doses administered as a percentage of the population covered. Experts have said to achieve 'herd immunity', where the virus stops spreading', around 85 per cent need to be vaccinated. The data is from Our World in Data

And this is the number of doses administered as a percentage of the population covered. Experts have said to achieve ‘herd immunity’, where the virus stops spreading’, around 85 per cent need to be vaccinated. The data is from Our World in Data

Ursula von der Leyen issues grovelling apology over EU’s vaccine shambles

Ursula von der Leyen today issued a grovelling apology for the EU’s vaccine shambles, admitting the bloc acted ‘late’ and was ‘over-confident’.

The European commission president also conceded its rollout was still not ‘where we want to be’ in a humbling speech in Brussels.

However, she defended trying to thrash out at unified approach for the 27 member states, even though she has likened it to a ‘tanker’ compared to the UK’s ‘speedboat’.

UK government figures last night showed 12,646,486 people have now received initial jabs, with another 516,392 having had their booster.

By contrast the EU as a whole has administered fewer than 18million doses to its population of around 450million people.

Globally there are around 4.6million jabs being given every day, with around one in 10 of those happening in the UK.

Speaking at an EU Parliament plenary session, Ms von der Leyen said: ‘We are still not where we want to be. We were late to authorise.

‘We were too optimistic when it came to massive production and perhaps we were too confident that, what we ordered, would actually be delivered on time.’

In other coronavirus developments today:

  • Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine is safe and ‘likely effective’ for people over the age of 65, the World Health Organization said today as it officially recommended the jab ‘without an upper age limit’;
  • The South African government could sell off its stockpiles of the Oxford vaccine, the country’s health minister has admitted, after a controversial study claimed it wouldn’t be able to stop mild or moderate Covid cases;
  • Nicola Sturgeon was accused of trying to extend Scottish laws south of the border after her Government demanded English authorities quarantine all travellers flying into England if they were planning to go to Scotland;
  • Matt Hancock faced a furious backlash over his blood-curdling threat of 10 years in jail for travellers who lie about visiting mutant Covid hotspots; 
  • Grant Shapps revealed he has had talks with foreign politicians about an ‘internationally recognised system’ of allowing travellers to prove they have had a Covid jab.

James Lawson, author of the study Worth a Shot: Accelerating Covid-19 Vaccinations, and fellow at think-tank the Adam Smith Institute, today urged ministers not to be complacent because of early success.

‘While the Government has made significant progress since January in boosting the amount of daily doses we can’t be complacent,’ he told MailOnline. 

‘We need to keep up the pace, keep accelerating and ultimately should be aiming to even double or triple the number of doses that we are doing compared with today.

‘There is ultimately no excuse for slowing down. We can’t use the excuse of weekends and weather because ultimately the virus doesn’t stop for weekends, the virus doesn’t sleep – the virus keeps spreading so we do need to accelerate.’

He added that ministers must make the most of the time before second doses need to be delivered, which will mean vaccinators can reach fewer Britons with first doses every day. 

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said the speed with which Covid jabs were developed and rolled out was an 'inspiration' but added that poorer countries were missing out due to a lack of a global strategy

Ursula von der Leyen today issued a grovelling apology for the EU's vaccine shambles, admitting the bloc acted 'late' and was 'over-confident'

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair (left) said the speed with which Covid jabs were developed and rolled out was an ‘inspiration’ but added that poorer countries were missing out due to a lack of a global strategy. Ursula von der Leyen (right) today issued a grovelling apology for the EU’s vaccine shambles, admitting the bloc acted ‘late’ and was ‘over-confident’

Oxford Covid vaccine IS safe and ‘likely effective’ for over-65s, World Health Organization rules

Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s vaccine is safe and ‘likely effective’ for people over the age of 65, the World Health Organization said today.

The WHO has officially recommended the use of the vaccine in adults of all ages and said that doses should ideally be spaced by between eight and 12 weeks.

The statement is a hit back against European countries that criticised the jab and refused to use it among their older populations, claiming there was not enough proof it worked.

Countries including Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Poland and Italy decided not to roll out the vaccine to older people.

News reports from Germany in January sensationally claimed that the vaccine was only eight per cent effective among over-65s, but it later emerged that ministers had put an inaccurate percentage on clinical data that was so vague it was meaningless.

However today, Dr Alejandro Cravioto, a director at the WHO, said in a briefing that the jab could be given ‘without an upper age limit’.

Dr Cravioto said there was ‘no reason’ that places with the South African variant of the virus should not use the vaccine to keep down hospital admissions and deaths with the virus, in the wake of a study suggesting it may be less effective against it.

‘The intent behind doing the first dose is to get the maximum coverage of vulnerable groups and that is something we are supportive of – at the same time they should be extending to a wider audience,’ he said.

‘The worry we have got is without the number of doses increasing on a daily basis you are going to see a slowdown in the number of new doses being given out or first doses being given out as we catch up on second doses.

‘For every person we give a second dose to we can’t give another first dose out. We do have a worry that if they don’t increase the capacity to distribute doses then we are going to see a slowdown either in the number of people who get their second dose or in the people who get a first dose – neither of which is ideal.’

Department of Health figures show the vaccination drive ramped up by at least 25 per cent every week over the first three weeks it was opened — as nurses and volunteers rushed to get Britain moving again.

But it ticked up by just one per cent on February 8, the latest day data is available, when 356,291 doses were administered compared to 352,935 on Monday last week.  

Our World in Health data shows Britain has dished out 35 times more doses of Covid vaccines than Germany, which is leading the jabs drive in the EU. Germany has managed 337,000 doses so far, followed by Italy at 270,000, France at 222,000 and Spain’s 217,000.

The figures also reveal a sharp disparity between the drive in different continents, with the whole of Africa having given out 17,600 doses so far.

Tony Blair today called on countries around the world to co-ordinate their vaccine strategy saying they have an ‘opportunity to learn the lessons from the early vaccine rollout’.

‘The speed with which Covid-19 vaccines were developed and are being rolled out has been an inspiration,’ he said. 

‘In just six weeks, the world has already administered 134million shots, with a current rolling average of over 4.5million doses per day. But the unequal distribution of those vaccines is both unfair and unsustainable.

Elderly people and patients with underlying health conditions are among the top four priority groups which make up 15million set to be vaccinated by February 15

Elderly people and patients with underlying health conditions are among the top four priority groups which make up 15million set to be vaccinated by February 15

‘The main challenge has been the lack of any global strategy to co-ordinate and maximise production, and then ensure their swift and equitable distribution to every country in the world. 

Nicola Sturgeon branded ‘ridiculous’ over demand that England quarantines ALL international arrivals heading to Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon was facing fury today after her Government demanded English authorities quarantine all travellers flying into England if they were planning to go to Scotland.

The First Minister was accused of trying to extend Scottish laws south of the border with the demand that would force England to lock people up in hotels for 10 days even if local rules said they did not need to.

Under plans unveiled by Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night, only arrivals from 33 Red List nations would be required to stay locked in a hotel for 10 days in England.

Scotland however, is forcing all international arrivals into its airports to undergo the stay at a cost of £1,750. Scots Transport Secretary Michael Matheson last night confirmed the SNP government in Edinburgh wants Boris Johnson to adhere to Scotland’s policy for travellers heading north of the border via England.

Tory MP Peter Bone said Ms Sturgeon needed to clarify what her government was demanding.

‘If someone arrives in England and then travels to Scotland they have to abide by the Scottish laws but it is wrong for the First Minister of Scotland to try and impose her laws on English airports,’ he told MailOnline.

‘That’s ridiculous and bears no logic. If that is what she means I think the UK Government should firmly reject that idea.

‘She should clarify … and make it clear that quarantine rules will apply once someone goes into Scotland.’

Passengers arriving at UK airports have to fill out a ‘passenger locator form’ in the 48 hours before arriving in Great Britain. 

‘Given the potential for vaccine resistant strains to develop in any part of the word and then spread globally, the whole world is in peril if we allow this situation to persist.

‘As more vaccines achieve regulatory approval and new vaccines to deal with new variants arrive, the world must be prepared. Closed borders are not sustainable in the medium or long term.

‘We need to create a globally co-ordinated vaccine strategy now, bringing together representatives from science, medicine, the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturing, financiers, distribution and logistics to consider how to accelerate vaccine production and oversee allocation and procurement processes with governments.’

It comes after Ms von der Leyen today issued a grovelling apology for the EU’s vaccine shambles, admitting the bloc acted ‘late’ and was ‘over-confident’.

The European commission president also conceded its rollout was still not ‘where we want to be’ in a humbling speech in Brussels.

However, she defended trying to thrash out at unified approach for the 27 member states, even though she has likened it to a ‘tanker’ compared to the UK’s ‘speedboat’. 

Globally there are around 4.6million jabs being given every day, with around one in 10 of those happening in the UK.

Speaking at an EU Parliament plenary session, Ms von der Leyen said: ‘We are still not where we want to be. We were late to authorise.

‘We were too optimistic when it came to massive production and perhaps we were too confident that, what we ordered, would actually be delivered on time.’

Ms von der Leyen also said she was sorry for the confusion over the threat to suspend the Northern Ireland protocol in order to block vaccine exports – which was humiliatingly dropped.

‘The bottom line is that mistakes were made in the process leading up to the decision,’ Ms von der Leyen said.

‘And I deeply regret that. But in the end we got it right.’

Ms von der Leyen said she still believes that 70 per cent of the EU’s adult population can be vaccinated by the end of summer, swiping at pharmaceutical companies for not keeping pace with scientific advances.

‘Industry has to match the groundbreaking pace of science,’ Ms von der Leyen said.

‘We fully understand that difficulties will arise in the mass production of vaccines.

‘But Europe has invested billions of euros in capacities in advance, and we urged the member states to plan the vaccine rollout. So now we all need predictability.’

Despite the chaos, the three groups of MEPs stuck with Ms von der Leyen’s approach of member states moving together.

‘The key decisions were right,’ Manfred Weber, leader of the Christian Democrat European People’s Party, said.

The Socialists and Democrats party leader Iratxe Garcia said: ‘Fiasco, catastrophe, disaster: they ring very true to our citizens.’

But she added that her party would stick with Ms von der Leyen on the bloc moving together. ‘Criticism is necessary but with a constructive spirit,’ she said.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk