Only half of appointments for Covid vaccines are being taken up at Manchester’s mass vaccination centre, it was revealed today as Andy Burnham urged ministers to expand the roll-out to younger age groups so precious doses don’t go to waste.
The mayor of Greater Manchester warned jabs are just ‘sitting in fridges’ at the Etihad Stadium’s hub, and said that he fears the situation was similar in other areas across the country.
Mr Burnham claimed too many elderly residents – who are in the top priority groups becasue their age makes them more vulnerable to the coronavirus – were opting to wait for appointments at local clinics, rather than booking at the major centres.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Strictly proceeding by age as the Government is doing at the moment is leading to a massive underuse of resources.
‘When people are getting the letter, as people in the 65-70 age group have got recently, saying ‘do you want to go to the regional centre at Etihad or do you want to wait to go local?’, most people are going local. That is leading to a situation where we’ve got plenty of slots that are just going unfilled.
‘So our message to the Government is why not open up the mass vaccination centre to a younger, more mobile cohort who then can go and use that and free up then more slots at the primary care level for people who might struggle to get to the regional centre.’
Wales has already began inviting over-50s, while some parts of England have began jabbing people in their early sixties. Despite a handful of areas storming ahead, parts of London have yet to dish out first doses to two thirds of over-70s. Health chiefs fear vaccine hesitancy among black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) groups is behind the poorer uptake in the capital’s culturally diverse boroughs.
Britain is in a race against time to dish out as many first doses to as many over-50s as possible before the end of March, when millions of second jabs must be administered en masse. Ministers are unlikely to ease draconian restrictions drastically until the majority are inoculated.
So long as the mammoth operation stays at the current speed, the UK could offer jabs to all 32million vulnerable Britons before the end of March. But not everyone will get vaccinated, meaning No10 may be able to expand the roll-out even sooner.
It comes after the Mail revealed that Britons as young as 40 could be offered a jab when phase two of the roll-out is finished. Government advisers are set to recommend the next phase of the operation continues on the basis of age, rather than prioritising key workers.
It was also revealed today that that the Oxford and Pfizer jabs cut two thirds of infections and transmissions. The findings come from the first real-word data of the UK’s massive vaccine drive, seen by The Telegraph and handed to Boris Johnson before he unveils his roadmap out of lockdown on Monday.
Top scientists – including ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson – hailed the promising data, which will pile further pressure on the Prime Minister from anti-lockdown Tory MPs to commit to easing restrictions even sooner.
It was revealed today that half of appointments at the Etihad mass vaccination centre (pictured) in Greater Manchester are not been used
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham today called on the Government to further expand the rollout so that ‘younger, more mobile’ priority groups could get jabs. (Left: Etihad centre)
Mr Burnham warned ministers that rolling out jabs by age groups is leaving thousands of vital doses just ‘sitting in the fridge’ at mass jabbing centres.
‘I don’t think the picture we have is unique’, he said. ‘I think other mass vaccination centres around the country are reporting something of the same.
He added: ‘What I’m saying to the Government is in the spirit of wanting to see the vaccination programme continue to succeed and recognising the good job that they’ve done it makes sense now to use these mass vaccination centres to the full so that we can make more inroads getting more people vaccinated, and then that will build more confidence about reopening the economy.’
Mr Burnham told a press conference earlier this week that only 50 per cent of appointments available at the Etihad centre were actually being used, local media reports.
It comes after the head of the Francis Crick Institute in London said last week that only 10 per cent of appointments at their centre were being used.
He urged ministers to provide clarity and ensure that more appointments were used, pointing out that Britain needs to get doses to as many people as possible.
The rollout was expanded to the over-65s last week, and in some areas where they are steaming ahead the over-60s have now being added to the list.
But it has been accused of failing to pick up the pace and dish out more doses as the UK remains in lockdown.
The latest figures from the Department of Health show an average of 423,000 doses were being got into Britons arms every day by Wednesday this week.
While a very high number, this is below the average from the same time last week, when 434,000 were being administered, and two weeks ago, when 434,000 were also been administered.
It comes as the Daily Mail today revealed over-40s could get their first shot of the vaccine within weeks as Government advisers are set to recommend the next phase continues on the basis of age rather than prioritising key workers.
But the age brackets will be wider than before – meaning 40 to 49-year-olds are likely to be invited to have a jab once the 32million people in the top nine groups have had their first dose.
Earlier this week it emerged this target could be hit as soon as March 24, if the daily average is maintained.
This would mean the over-40s being invited for a jab in less than five weeks.
It would be a huge boost for Britain’s vaccine programme and could add to the pressure on ministers to ease the lockdown sooner.
It comes as the head of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said age should be the dominant factor in deciding the next phase of the jab rollout.
Professor Wei Shen Lim told an online audience of doctors age ‘dominates by a long way’ while underlying health conditions contribute ‘some increased risk’.
It comes as England’s Covid vaccine postcode lottery was laid bare today after it emerged parts of London have jabbed just 60 per cent of over-70s – while almost every elderly person has had their first dose in one district in Hampshire.
The NHS England statistics, which go up to February 14, also show that some parts of the country have dished out nearly 300 times as many second vaccine doses as others.
The area with the poorest uptake of the first dose was Westminster, in central London, where only 60.9 per cent of residents over 70 have had their first injection. The figure was almost as low in West London, where just 67.5 per cent of people in the age group have been jabbed. The worst 10 areas for uptake were all in the capital.
Health chiefs fear vaccine hesitancy among black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) groups is behind the poorer uptake in London’s culturally diverse boroughs.
It follows reports of GP surgeries in London having to close early because not enough people have been turning up to get their injection.
North East Hampshire and Farnham, on the other hand, has given out the most first doses to over-70s in the country, with 99.8 per cent uptake. East Leicestershire and Rutland was second, at 99.3 per cent.
Somerset and Sunderland have both also jabbed more than 99 per cent of over-70s with either Pfizer‘s or Oxford University’s vaccine.
While London is being hit hardest by the postcode lottery, overall, uptake across the country appears even. The figures show 114 out of 135 NHS areas in England have vaccinated more than nine in 10 over-70s.
But uptake of the second dose is far more inconsistent, with some areas jabbing up to 300 times as many patients as others. Portsmouth, for example, has seen 14.7 per cent coverage compared to 0.05 per cent in Morecambe Bay, in Lancashire.
Number 10 decided last month to delay the second dose for up to 12 weeks in an attempt to get the first injection to as many Brits as possible, which may partially explain the disparity.
The figures do not take into account health and social care staff or extremely clinically vulnerable younger people, such as those with terminal illnesses, who are both also at the top of the vaccine priority list. Instead, they look solely at over-70s, who are most at risk of dying from the illness.