England gave out 252,992 Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday, official figures show, as the drive to immunise the UK is off its 400,000-a-day target needed to reach 15 million of the most vulnerable groups by mid-February.
The NHS data figures show that 252,992 vaccinations were administered across England on January 27 – of which 251,902 were given to people receiving their first dose.
The UK needs to be vaccinating at least 400,000 people every day for the next three weeks to fulfil Number 10‘s promise of immunising all 15million of the most vulnerable Brits by February 15. For each day that passes without the target being hit it becomes slightly higher.
Overall, 6.9million first and second doses have been administered across England and 6.5 million have at least received their first dose while 1,090 received their follow-up jab on Wednesday.
However the vaccine postcode lottery saw 84 per cent of over-80s immunised in the North East and Yorkshire with only 78 per cent in the South East and 65 per cent in London.
The NHS data figures show that 252,992 vaccinations were administered across England on January 27 – of which 251,902 were given to people receiving their first dose. Pictured: Pharmacist Bhaveen Patel gives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in Brixton, London
This means the prospect of lifting tough social distancing rules that have already been in place for three weeks is reliant entirely on the vaccine programme getting up to speed.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove has insisted ‘there will be no interruption’ to the UK vaccine supplies after tensions between the EU and UK over vaccine supplies escalated again today, with MEPs threatening ‘trade war’.
‘It is the case that the supplies that have been planned, paid for and scheduled should continue, absolutely. There will be no interruption to that,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme according to the broadcaster.
Officials said there are ‘a lot of moving parts’ contributing to the vaccine slowdown, with ‘intermittent’ deliveries of supplies, as well as difficulties contacting the remaining over-80s and covering care homes among the factors.
MPs have previously voiced frustration at the way supplies have been divvied out across the UK.
In London the allocation is believed to have been based on take-up of last season’s flu vaccine, which was relatively low.
Meanwhile there are claims officials have been sent from the medicines agency to the AstraZeneca plant in Belgium to check it genuinely has problems producing doses.
It comes as the bloc tries to turn the screw on the UK-based pharma giant to bail out its shambolic vaccine rollout.
European politicians warned the ‘consequences’ of refusing to divert stocks of the UK-made jabs to EU would be a ban on exports of the Pfizer version from Belgium – suggesting 3.5million doses due to arrive soon could be at risk.
Vaccines WILL limit the spread of coronavirus – but we won’t know how by much until mid-February, experts say
Britain’s vaccine roll out will limit the spread of coronavirus, but by exactly how much will not be made clear until mid-February, experts say.
Providing a boost to the UK’s hopes of ending lockdown, England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said jabs ‘couldn’t fail to have some effect on transmission’.
He said it was less a question of ‘will they?’ and rather ‘to what extent’ will inoculation help to reduce the spread.
But Boris Johnson and his chief scientists tonight said experts won’t know much effect the coronavirus vaccines are having on the country’s epidemic until mid-February,
The PM said the impact of the jabs won’t be felt in hospital and deaths data until then due to the lag in time it takes between getting injected and developing immunity.
He told a Downing Street press conference tonight that he would not consider lifting lockdown restrictions until he’d seen concrete ‘evidence that those graphs are coming down’.
The immunisation drive has only really got up to speed in the last few weeks and it takes between a fortnight and a month for a person to build up immunity.
Both the Pfizer and Oxford University vaccines have been proven to block severe illness, so experts hope they’ll start to make a dent in the death and hospitalisation rates in the coming weeks.
No10’s scientists will be monitoring those metrics, specifically in the most vulnerable groups – including the over-80s, over-75s and care homes residents – who are currently receiving the jabs.
So far 6.8million, or one in 10, people in Britain have received at least one dose of the vaccines.
In three weeks time, when most of those people have protection, experts will expect to see a near 10 per cent drop in hospital admissions.
Not all of the people vaccinated will be immune, however, because the jabs are not perfect. Pfizer’s is 95 per cent effective at blocking severe disease, while Oxford’s is around 70 per cent.
EU chiefs want more of the Oxford jabs – made in Staffordshire and Oxfordshire – be handed over to make up for a 75million shortfall on the continent.
The European Commission said the Anglo-Swedish firm was obliged to meet its contractual obligations despite production issues at its Belgian site.
So far both AstraZeneca and Pfizer look to be holding firm against the sabre-rattling from Brussels.
However coronavirus cases in England have fallen 17 per cent in a week amid the brutal restrictions, official figures have revealed.
Test and Trace said 274,898 people tested positive for the virus in the week to January 20, the lowest number since before Christmas and the second week in a row a dip has been recorded.
It is another glimmer of hope that measures are turning the tide on the second wave after separate statistics from a Government-commissioned study also showed cases were dipping in England – although scientists insisted the drop was ‘shallow’.
And Department of Health figures are indicating the number of Britons testing positive for the virus every day is falling – with yesterday’s figures 88 per cent below the levels two weeks ago.
Experts say lockdown is reducing transmission of the virus, although some worry this isn’t happening fast enough to relieve pressure on over-stretched hospitals.
Test and Trace – run by the Department of Health and private contracters – has been dogged by allegations it is too slow to reach positive cases and had failed to plan ahead for spiking numbers of infections in September when schools returned.
The figures published today show almost 56,000 fewer Britons tested positive for the virus in the third week of January than the week before.
There were 330,871 positive swabs in this week, which was 57,000 people fewer than the seven-day spell before when 388,037 people tested positive – the peak of the second wave.
Test and Trace figures only pick up symptomatic cases – when someone gets a swab after suffering a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss of taste and smell.
But they leave out those that are infected but are not experiencing any symptoms of the virus.
The Health Minister Lord Bethell today warned one in three people who are infected with the virus do not suffer symptoms, ‘meaning you can infect others unknowingly’.
‘It is therefore crucial that we continue to follow public health guidance, and all play our part by following the rules and reducing our social contact to slow the spread of the virus,’ he said.
The figures also showed nine in ten people who go for tests are now receiving their results within 24 hours, in a boost to the system.