The government’s vaccination target for the first two priority groups, including the over-80s and care home residents, is looming. NHS England directed GPs to ensure all care home jabs were completed by 24th January at the very latest. However, current evidence suggests only 6 in 10 care home residents have received the jab in many care homes across the country.
Only 43% of the 6,500 residents living in Care UK care homes across the UK have received a vaccine to date. Similarly, only 57% of residents at Barchester, who look after some 12,000 people, have been vaccinated. Both report that without immediate and rapid acceleration of the vaccine, they will struggle to vaccinate everyone by the end of the month, let alone 24th January.
The Orders of St John Care Trust, with 3,000 residents, also stated that only half of residents had received the jab. The MHA, the UK's largest charity care home operator, said that 11 of their homes had not heard from the NHS at all. Two-thirds of residents at their remaining care homes had been vaccinated.
“A Race Against Deaths”
The vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, called this a "race against deaths." At the same time, health secretary Matt Hancock said the government is prioritising distribution to parts of the UK most in need of the vaccine.
Nationwide, over half of the over-80s have been vaccinated.
This comes amidst news that the government is due to roll out the vaccine to priority groups three and four soon, covering the over-70s and clinically extremely vulnerable of any age above 16 (not including pregnant women).
Vaccine delays in care homes
Some care homes have suffered vaccine rollout delays since late December.
Northbrooke House on the Isle of Wight was due to receive vaccines before Christmas but faced delays. On 28th December, somebody in the home tested positive. 30 residents and 38 staff subsequently tested positive in early January.
In early December, Boris Johnson admitted at a Downing Street coronavirus briefing that rolling out the Pfizer vaccine would be an "immense logistical challenge." The Pfizer vaccine requires specialist cold storage and booster shots, which poses distribution issues across the UK. Moreover, the vaccine comes in packs of 975 doses, which complicates distribution to smaller localities and more isolated inter-city areas.
Matt Hancock has also said supply is the biggest issue with the vaccine, with Pfizer recently declaring they were having manufacturing issues at their main European plant in Belgium.
There are now three vaccines approved for use in the UK, these are:
- The Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine
- The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
- The Moderna vaccine
Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has reminded those in the top priority groups, the over-80s and care home residents, that their vaccinations would be imminent. Meanwhile, Hancock told Monday’s Downing Street press preference, “I want to say to anybody who is aged over 80 but hasn’t yet had their jab, we will reach you.”