3MILLION Britons are still unvaccinated against Covid: Health chiefs must redouble their efforts to boost take-up ahead of winter, MPs say
Health chiefs must redouble their efforts to encourage millions of Britons to get vaccinated against Covid ahead of the winter, MPs warned today.
Nearly 3million adults in England have not had any jabs to protect against the virus, so are at more severe risk of being hospitalised or dying if they get infected. Another 2.7million have only had one dose.
NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency must ‘urgently evaluate which methods are most effective’ for boosting uptake, including ‘fresh approaches’ to tackle persistent low immunisation rates among ethnic groups, according to a report on the vaccine rollout.
More than 125million doses of Covid vaccine have been dished out across the country since December 2020, with nine in 10 over-12s having their first dose.
But the Public Accounts Committee, which published the report, warned that these ‘early achievements’ should not ‘cloud the need to review vaccines’, warning that there is uncertainty about how the virus will mutate and if another massive resurgence is due later this year.
Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, urged health leaders not to ‘take their eye off the ball in tackling future challenges and getting vaccines to hard to reach groups’.
Another round of booster vaccines are due for later this year, with health chiefs rumoured to be interested in dishing out an Omicron-specific jab.
Nearly 3million adults in England have not had any jabs to protect against the virus so are at more severe risk of being hospitalised or dying if they get infected, a Government report on the vaccine rollout states. The graph shows vaccine uptake among all over-12s in England. Some 93.2 per cent have had their first dose, 87.3 per cent are double-jabbed and 68.7 per cent are boosted
More than 125million doses of Covid vaccine have been dished out across the country since December 2020, with nine in 10 over-12s having their first dose. The graph shows Covid vaccine uptake by dose and by date, with uptake flattening for all vaccines
The UK Health Security Agency graph shows more than three-quarters of eligible age groups came forward for a spring booster dose. Uptake was highest among 80 to 84-year-olds (78.6 per cent), followed by 85 to 89-year-olds (77.8 per cent), 75 to 79-year-olds (77.4 per cent) and the over-90s (75.4 per cent)
Experts warn bringing back £2bn-a-month free Covid testing scheme is pointless because latest wave will fizzle out in a MONTH
Calls are ramping up for Covid restrictions to return in the UK, despite a raft of data showing the virus has been reduced to a bad cold for the vast majority of people.
A number of high profile experts have publicly urged the Government to bring back face masks and free tests after a health minister admitted they could be reintroduced if the NHS becomes too busy to clear its backlogs.
The renewed calls for onerous public health measures are based on high levels of Covid cases and admissions to hospitals — despite figures showing two-thirds of ‘Covid patients’ in the NHS are not primarily sick with the virus.
Deaths and ICU rates — which used to be the barometer for social restrictions — have remained flat despite the uptick in cases, which has been attributed to milder variants, vaccines and growing natural immunity.
Yet Lord Syed Kamall, a junior health minister, admitted yesterday that if Covid impedes on the NHS’ ability to treat other conditions then ‘clearly measures may well have to be introduced’.
Individual hospitals have already started to reimposed face masks and social distancing in corridors and waiting rooms, in the first sign of curbs creeping back into normal life.
And today several scientists on Independent SAGE — a campaign group that used to advocate a Chinese-style zero-Covid strategy — started publicly lobbying for the return of the extortionate free lateral flow scheme, outdoor mixing and face coverings.
Their calls come on the back of a warning by a symptom tracking study that cases are on track to reach new highs this summer.
But other experts told MailOnline they expect the current surge to burn out naturally in the coming weeks as the virus ebbs and flows before settling into a more consistent pattern. They warned that by the time masks or lateral flows were rolled out, the latest wave would be ‘history’.
By the end of May, 2.98million adults in England were unvaccinated and a further 1.5million had only received a single dose of Covid vaccine.
Many of those unvaccinated are young city-dwellers, with residents of five cities making up a quarter of the unjabbed total, the report states.
And vaccination is now ‘worryingly a lower priority for many people’ as the country is no longer in a state of emergency, the MPs said.
They urged the NHS to ‘set itself the challenge’ of reducing the number of adults who are unvaccinated to 2.5million and achieve an 80 per cent uptake for the first booster dose within four months.
Some 32.6million adults have had their third dose so far — just 73 per cent.
The MPs noted that while nine in 10 adults were double-jabbed by the end of May, just 55 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds had come forward for two doses, dropping to 38 per cent among 12 to 15-year-olds.
Pregnant women have also been reluctant to get vaccinated, with just 58 per cent receiving two doses.
And black, black British and Pakistani people are less than half as likely to have had their booster than a white British person.
On top of difficulties reaching some ethnic communities, the MPs said health chiefs had struggled to encourage those with learning disabilities and needle phobia to come forward, noting these groups had ‘not always been consistently or adequately addressed’.
They called for the NHS and UKHSA to recognise that the reasons for low vaccine uptake will vary and to ‘urgently evaluate which approaches are most effective’ at making people come forward.
The health bodies should inform local areas what works and support them deploy the most effective approaches, including ‘fresh’ ways to addressing the persistent low uptake in some ethnic groups.
MPs did not set out what methods should be brought in. But Britons were previously rewarded with vouchers, such as from ASDA, holiday provider lastminute.com and leisure centres. Free bus tickets were also on offer.
Those methods, as well as an advertising blitz, is thought to have helped boost uptake rates in some groups.
Dame Meg said: ‘The Department and NHS England must build on the initial successes of the vaccine programme and redouble efforts to reach people who are unvaccinated and at greater risk of becoming hospitalised or dying as a result of Covid.
‘Despite work to date, low vaccination rates persist in many vulnerable groups and fresh approaches are needed to reach then.
‘The Committee recognises the enormous effort by those who developed, secured and administered our Covid vaccines. The vaccine programme made a real difference. As well as saving lives it has reduced the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
‘It’s important that the early success does not mean that the Department and NHS England take their eye off the ball in tackling future challenges and getting vaccines to hard to reach groups.’
The report also calls for the NHS to develop a vaccination workforce strategy by October that allows them to wind down their vaccine sites in a cost effective way while ensuring they can ramp up capacity again if needed in the future without relying on ‘burnt-out’ GPs and other NHS medics.
MPs said the Department of Health should conduct a review to identify lessons learnt from the vaccine rollout and inform the committee within six months of the improvements it will make in other health programmes as a result.
Health ministers and the vaccine taskforce, which sits within the UKHSA, were also instructed to review their Covid vaccine procurement strategy to ensure the UK’s ongoing vaccine deals — which have only been secured with mRNA jab makers Pfizer and Moderna — are not ‘too narrow’.
While health chiefs are confident the two jabs are the best for future booster campaigns, there is ‘much uncertainty’ around the emergence of new variants and what vaccines will be needed in the future, the report states.
The vaccine taskforce, UKHSA and NHS England have also been instructed to keep the committee updated on vaccine wastage levels amid concerns it is set to increase in 2022, from a ‘remarkable’ five per cent in 2021.
The graph shows the number of Covid jabs dished out in England per day since the vaccine rollout began in December 2020. At the height of the booster rollout in December 2021, more than 900,000 jabs were delivered in one day. An average of 18,000 people in England have been vaccinated per day in the week to July 2
Around 2.1m — the equivalent of one in 25 — had the virus in England alone (shown), which was up from one in 30 the previous week
MailOnline analysis shows how the rate of severe illness from Covid has fallen over time. At the beginning of the pandemic, one per cent of all people infected with the virus (based on the Office for National Statistics infection rate) required mechanical ventilation within two weeks. But most recent NHS bed occupancy rates show just 0.015 per cent of those infected are admitted to an ICU bed – 100 times fewer than the start of the pandemic
This graph shows the number of deaths directly due to Covid recorded in England and Wales. The number of deaths being recorded these nations currently is far below that of previous waves earlier year and a sheer fraction of those seen at the start of 2021
Health chiefs are struggling to estimate demand for the rest of the year but has ‘consciously taken a conservative approach to procurement, on the basis that too much is better than too little’, the report states.
Additionally, MPs instructed the Department of Health to set out its annual budget in ‘good time’ after it emerged that it had not allocated its £9.6billion budget for the Covid response.
Part of the ongoing Covid response is the autumn booster rollout.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in May announced that a booster dose should be give to the over-65s, frontline NHS and social care staff, those living in care homes for older adults and over-16s who are considered at-risk from the virus.
The scheme will increase the UK’s immunity against Covid hospitalisations and deaths over winter, when the NHS is already under strain.
However, the JCVI, which advises No10 on the rollout, said it will keep its suggestions under review.
In light of the virus’ current resurgence, which saw Covid cases in England jump by a fifth last week to 2.7million, and concerns it could disrupt the health service’s efforts to tackle its ever-growing backlog, officials are said to be considering expanding the autumn booster campaign to cover all over-50s.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control this week recommended that all over-60s and the medically vulnerable should be offered a Covid booster jab.
The move widens the pool of those eligible, after the EU health agency in April recommended that only the over-80s should get the additional dose. The expansion was prompted by rising infections across the continent.
Stella Kyriakides, the European commissioner for health and food safety, this week warned there is ‘no time to lose’ and urged EU member states to roll out the jab to eligible groups ‘immediately’.