Why won't they say how many have been given jab?

Why won’t they say how many have been given jab? Fears of missed targets and low uptake among the elderly as calls grow for Covid-19 vaccine figures to be made public

  • Pressure mounting on Matt Hancock publish how many people given vaccine
  • Officials have confirmed that ‘tens of thousands’ have received their first dose 
  • The  vaccination programme started last week at 70 hospitals across the UK

Pressure is mounting on Matt Hancock to publish details of how many people have been given the coronavirus vaccine.

Last week the Health Secretary proclaimed the approval of the Pfizer jab would see the vaccination of ‘millions by the end of the year’.

But eight days in and officials have confirmed only that ‘tens of thousands’ have received their first dose, suggesting it could become the latest in a long line of missed targets.

Matt Hancock is under pressure to publish details of how many people have been given the coronavirus vaccine

Patients sit in the waiting area as they prepare to receive the first does of the coronavirus jab  at The Hive in Harrow

The biggest ever vaccination programme started last week at 70 hospitals across the country, and was expanded to GP hubs this week.

But there are fears hesitancy over the jab could be hindering uptake, with reports some elderly patients are turning down their chance to be immunised.

GPs have suggested up to one in five over-80s are refusing the vaccine when offered, choosing instead to ‘wait and see’ before committing.

Last night officials reiterated that the vaccine was safe and urged people to heed the call when contacted by the NHS.

They said ‘weekly vaccine updates’ would be published ‘soon’, adding that data collection was key to understanding of uptake, impact and future planning.

Labour’s health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth said regular figures were vital to boost the nation’s spirits and show the progress being made in fighting the virus.

Officials have confirmed only that ‘tens of thousands’ have received their first dose. Pictured: Patients waiting for the vaccine at The Hive in Harrow

A queue forms at the Tilehurst Village surgery in Reading as people attempt to receive the coronavirus vaccine

He called for greater transparency, adding that the public have a right to know how many people have received the vaccine so far.

Months of planning had gone into vaccine procurement, with ample time to ensure an effective recording system was in place before the rollout began, Mr Ashworth suggested. 

Questions and answers

WHY DO THE ROLLOUT FIGURES MATTER?

It is important to track how many people have received the vaccine to understand how well the programme is going.

It is also vital to know how many people have been vaccinated for estimating what the level of protection is for the most vulnerable in our community. 

Only when sufficient people are immune can restrictions begin to ease.

If officials cannot provide figures at this early stage, it does not bode well for the mass-vaccination programme planned for next year.

ARE THEY COUNTING?

Yes, NHS England says there is a system for recording those who have been called for appointments and that administered vaccines are counted. The number of jabs available and the strict logistical requirements mean every dose is accounted for, so officials should be able to keep tally of how many have been given.

SO WHAT IS THE HOLD UP?

The Department of Health and NHS England say it is still very early in the process and the data collected needs verifying and standardising.

This will ensure hospitals and GP hubs who are administering the vaccine record things in the same way. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he is keen to publish the information in a similar way to coronavirus tests, hospital admissions and deaths. There is the suggestion figures may be published on a weekly basis.

WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE OXFORD JAB?

This is still in the hands of regulators the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency with hopes it will be approved by Christmas.

The UK has 100 million doses on order with up to four million possibly being ready by December 31. 

At less than £3 a dose, it is far cheaper than the Pfizer jab (£15 a dose) and will be less challenging to roll out as it can be kept at normal fridge temperatures, making delivery easier.

He said: ‘It’s been a week since the rollout – ministers must start publishing daily data on numbers of doses administered so we can all see what progress is made on the road to recovery.’

The reluctance to publish figures so far will fuel speculation that the UK is already falling behind in its vaccine delivery programme.

Officials had hoped to receive ten million doses by the end of 2020. 

This has since been revised down to five million, with only 800,000 doses known to be in the country so far.

On the first day of the programme last week Mr Hancock was asked by the BBC how quickly people would receive a shot, to which he replied: ‘Millions by the end of year.’

But earlier this week, there were reports of problems with distribution of vaccine supplies causing some GPs to postpone the start of the community effort.

While dozens of surgeries began giving their elderly patients the vaccine on Monday, others were forced to cancel appointments when the deliveries never arrived.

It was unclear yesterday how many of the 100 or so sites expected to begin vaccination had successfully done so. Logistical challenges meant ministers were also forced to row back on pledges to vaccinate people in care homes first.

Seven GP sites are starting to deliver vaccinations to care home residents this week ahead of a wider national push. 

NHS England confirmed details of the trial run during a webinar for primary care staff, GP news website GPonline reported.

Packages of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which come in boxes of 975 doses, will be split, with doctors using cool boxes packed with cooling gel to move smaller amounts to care homes.

The pilot this week, conducted at sites which have a licence from regulators, will test the process of splitting packs, transportation and how long it takes to obtain consent and carry out the inoculation.

Meanwhile, a poll has revealed that more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of the public would take a coronavirus jab if advised to by a health professional or their GP.

This fell to 57 per cent of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds – compared with 79 per cent of white respondents.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults by the Royal Society for Public Health found men were more likely to get the jab than women.

NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said: ‘The Covid-19 jab has been approved by the independent regulator and so it is really important that people take up their appointment when invited to do so.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘We will publish detailed data on the latest numbers of vaccines administered on a weekly basis and this will start as soon as possible.

‘Tens of thousands of people across the UK have already been vaccinated, with 70 hospitals and more than 100 GP-led centres offering the jab to those most in need.’

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