Health Secretary Matt Hancock today blamed ‘lumpy supply’ for blips in Britain’s coronavirus vaccine rollout and revealed plans to administer jabs through the night were going to be scrapped.
Despite the UK’s inoculation drive being an undoubted success, with 10million doses already dished out, a trend has emerged in the figures showing a sharp drop-off in uptake on Sundays. For example last Sunday there were 46 per cent fewer jabs administered compared to the day before — dropping from almost 600,000 to 320,000.
The fall was even more pronounced two Sundays ago, on January 24, when the number of injections more than halved. About 490,000 people were vaccinated on that Saturday, but the figure plunged to 220,000 the following day.
The Adam Smith think-tank told MailOnline the blips were a ‘worrying sign of lost priorities’ and said there appeared to be a ‘lackadaisical approach’ to vaccinations on Sunday. Deputy director Matt Kilcoyne added: ‘We need to make sure that we are firing on all cylinders at every single point, every single day. This is the most important issue in politics right now and the fact that we are failing to ramp up right across the week is a worrying sign of lost priorities of everybody who is involved in the pandemic.’
Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, yesterday suggested GPs who closed their surgeries on Sundays were slowing down the roll out North of the Border. Economists from the Institute for Economic Affairs have previously told MailOnline that there is ‘no incentive’ for family doctors, who’ve been battling Covid on the frontlines of the second wave, to work seven days a week.
Asked about the fluctuations during a round of interviews this morning, Mr Hancock suggested vaccine supplies arrive in one large batch at the start of the week and dry up by the time Sunday comes around. He told LBC Radio: ‘The answer is absolutely about supply… The supply is lumpy and as soon as a big shipment comes in we deliver it to the front line and they get it out as fast as we can.’
But Mr Kilcoyne accused the Health Secretary of trying to shift the blame. ‘Matt Hancock has made the order, he is in charge of the operation and the rollout and it seems like he is passing the buck but the buck still stops with him,’ he said.
‘It is not good enough that there is a drop – it is the most important issue that we end up with high levels of vaccine supply every single day of the week so that we can end up with vaccinations being ramped up so that we can save more lives.’
The Health Secretary also suggested No10 was purposefully masking data on its vaccine supplies, adding: ‘We don’t publish the supply figures and the reason we don’t is that they move around.’
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, slammed Mr Hancock for hiding the figures. ‘We need transparency from the Government about vaccine supply and how that is affecting the rate at which people can get their jabs,’ she told MailOnline.
‘It’s vital that we take advantage of every hour of every day to vaccinate as many people as possible, and any issues with vaccinations on Sundays must be explored and fixed by the Government. But the Government must also continue to focus on suppression of the virus in the community, as well as rolling out the vaccine to mitigate the risk of any new vaccine-resistant mutation getting out of control and triggering another cycle of boom and bust lockdowns.’
Meanwhile, Mr Hancock hinted that 24-hour vaccinations would be scrapped because not enough people were coming forward for nighttime jabs. NHS trusts in Birmingham and Nottingham have been offering 24/7 Covid vaccines for a fortnight as part of a pilot to gauge the demand for the scheme.
Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘Some hospitals did do 24-hour jabbing and they did that in order to ensure their night shifts got the protection. But we have discovered, perhaps to nobody’s surprise, that people tend to want to have the jab during the day, and those who are doing the vaccinations prefer to do it during the day, so, since what you need to do is you need a vaccinator and the vaccine and the person being vaccinated, getting those three together during the day is more convenient than overnight.’
However, there are fears the 24/7 vaccine programme is being scrapped before it has had a chance to properly succeed. At the moment only the elderly and the most frail Brits, as well as NHS and care workers, are being invited for vaccines, including jabs done overnight.
Experts have said all along that because many vulnerable Brits find it difficult to leave home, there won’t be huge clamour for nighttime vaccines until priority moves down to younger and healthier people, who are more flexible and find it easier to get to a jab centre.
Despite the UK’s inoculation drive being an undoubted success, a trend has emerged in the figures showing a sharp drop-off in uptake on Sundays. For example last Sunday there were 46 per cent fewer jabs administered compared to the day before — dropping from almost 600,000 to 320,000
Despite the daily fluctuation in vaccine uptake, Britain is inoculating 400,000 people on average every day – more per capita than anywhere in the world except Israel
Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured today) suggested that vaccine supplies arrive in one large batch at the start of the week and dry up by the time Sunday comes around. It comes after Oxford University’s jab was shown to protect people for 12 weeks after a single dose. Pictured right: Dr Andrew Pollard, the lead investigator of Oxford’s study
Research found that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was 84% effective at preventing Covid-19 with doses 12 weeks apart and it appeared to get better the further apart the doses were (shown graph top left, how the protection level changed based on the dose spacing). And it also proved that there was a high level of protection from disease for weeks and even months after even just a single dose (bottom graph, showing how the efficacy of the vaccine remained high for almost 100 days after dose one)
Single shot of Oxford University’s Covid jab ‘is 76% effective for 12 weeks’
A single shot of Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine is 76 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic illness and may have a ‘substantial effect’ on transmission, research suggests.
In a huge boost to the UK’s immunisation drive, analysis of the jab trials found the first dose was extremely successful in preventing people from falling ill within the 12-week time window between getting a second dose.
When the second dose is administered after three months, the jab’s efficacy is bumped up to 82.4 per cent, according to the study, which has been submitted to The Lancet for publication.
The results, from more than 17,000 trial volunteers, suggest Britain’s vaccination gamble to delay its dosing regimen has paid off.
In a bid to get wider vaccine coverage quicker, regulators pivoted from their original plan to give people their second dose after 21 days when the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab was approved in late December.
They pushed back the second dose for 12 weeks in the hope that giving partial protection to as many vulnerable people as possible would drive down hospital admissions.
Meanwhile, analysis of PCR positive swabs carried out on nearly 7,000 patients in the UK arm of Oxford’s trial suggests the vaccine may reduce transmission by 67 per cent.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the findings as ‘hugely encouraging’, adding: ‘It further reinforces our confidence that vaccines are capable of reducing transmission and protecting people from this awful disease.’
Dr Gillies O’Bryan-Tear, of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, said the study suggested the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be the ‘holy grail’.
Despite the daily fluctuation in vaccine uptake, Britain is dishing out 400,000 doses on average every day — more per capita than anywhere in the world except Israel.
The UK passed the landmark of 10million vaccine doses yesterday, amid hopes that all adults could have received Covid jabs by the end of August. Around 353,000 jabs were administered on Monday.
Around three million people aged between 65 and 69 will start to be sent letters in the coming days, meaning that some areas may be able to offer vaccines to those below the age of 70 before February 15 — when the four most vulnerable groups should have been covered.
The news suggests the UK is on track to surpass its goal of offering jabs to all over-70s by mid-February. Some in Whitehall are reportedly hopeful that the whole adult population will be provided with doses by the beginning of May.
There are added hopes all of those adults could have received their follow-up jab by the end of August.
However, other government sources said that could be too optimistic, telling MailOnline that supply constraints alone are likely to rule it out.
It would require an average of around 500,000 doses to be administered every day for the next 12 weeks. No10 has promised to vaccinate 13.9million of the most vulnerable by mid-February, in order to begin easing lockdown restrictions. But Boris Johnson has since said March 8 is the earliest date for easing the national measures.
Mr Hancock has claimed those who had received a first dose of the life-saving drug included more than half of the over-70s, plus nine in 10 of the over-80s.
It came as the Health Secretary today admitted he pushed the Government into the massive order for 100million doses of Oxford University’s Covid vaccine instead of the originally planned 30million, saying he refused to ‘settle for less’.
The staggering order has been a stroke of good fortune for Britain, with the jab successful in clinical trials, quick to get approval and now believed to be getting delivered at the break-neck speed of two million doses per week.
And the Health Secretary said a study published last night, which showed the jab is 84 per cent effective when doses are spaced by 12 weeks and that it can cut transmission of the virus by up to two thirds, meant ‘people right around the world can be confident in this Oxford vaccine’.
His comment came after European leaders snubbed the vaccine for elderly people, with Germany, France, Sweden and Poland saying they won’t use the vaccine on over-65s because there isn’t enough data to prove it works.
French President Emmanuel Macron ruffled feathers this week by dubbing the jab ‘quasi-ineffective’ for elderly people.
When asked what he thought of Mr Macron’s comment, one of Oxford’s vaccine makers Dr Andrew Pollard said on Radio 4: ‘I don’t understand what the statement means’.
Scotland’s top medic says slow roll-out has been hindered by GPs who don’t work on Sundays
Scotland’s top medic today said that Scotland’s slow vaccine rollout had been hindered by GPs whose surgeries are closed on Sundays.
National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said ‘Sundays are a little bit tricky’ and that the vaccination team has been asked to ‘have a look at that’.
Holyrood ministers have been accused of being too slow over the vaccination rollout in recent days, with opposition politicians saying the rest of the UK is moving faster.
On Sunday, just 9,628 vaccinations were completed in Scotland, out of a UK-wide total of 322,000.
Prof Leitch added that the reason for the drop on Sunday was because of where the jabs are being administered, with most being delivered in GP practices which ‘didn’t all work (on) Sunday’.
‘We decided to do the over-80s in their own practices, where they would know their nurses, where they would know their GPs, where they would be close to home,’ he said.
The situation is believed to be different in England where, under an agreement between the British Medical Association and NHS England ‘practices will need to be prepared to offer vaccinations seven days a week so that the vaccine is delivered within its short shelf-life and so patients receive it as soon as possible’.
Europe has struggled to get its hands on the Oxford/AstraZeneca’s vaccine because batches being developed in Germany have had lower yields than those in Britain, which triggered a bitter row last week.
Britain’s huge, home-grown and protected supply now puts the nation in the best position for vaccinations in the entire of Europe.
Mr Hancock, speaking on LBC Radio, said he had taken inspiration from the 2011 film Contagion, which taught him there would be a scramble for jabs.
He said: ‘In the film it shows that the moment of highest stress around the vaccination programme is not, in fact, before it’s rolled out – when actually it’s the scientists and manufacturers working at pace – it’s afterwards, when there is a huge row about the order of priority.
‘So not only in this country did I insist that we ordered enough for every adult to have their two but, also, we asked for that clinical advice on that prioritisation very early and set it out in public… so that there was no big row about the order of priority.’
Detailed researched showed last night that a single dose of Oxford’s jab gave 76 per cent of people total protection against developing Covid-19 symptoms before their second jab, and the two-dose course appeared to stop two thirds of people (67 per cent) from catching coronavirus at all.
The study was welcomed by ministers because it reinforced the science behind the controversial decision to extend the gap between the first and second doses from three weeks to 12, Mr Hancock said.
And he added that discovering it could stop transmission – previously unknown – could ‘help us all to get out of this pandemic’.
Mr Hancock said today: ‘[This study] does show the world that the Oxford jab works, it works well, it protects you – because there were no hospitalisations amongst those who had the jab – and it slows transmission by around two thirds.’
On Mr Macron’s comment he added: ‘My view is that we should listen to the scientists… and the science on this one was already pretty clear. And then, with this publication overnight, was absolutely crystal clear that the Oxford vaccine not only works, but works well.’
In another ray of hope from Oxford’s research, Dr Pollard said he is confident that the current vaccines will still prevent severe Covid-19 in people who get infected with mutated variants of the virus.
But the prospect still looms that new vaccines will be needed for more future rollouts as medics look to keep on top of the evolving virus to stop it getting past immunity developed to older versions of the disease. Experts have suggested a yearly vaccination campaign like flu may be the answer, or that boosters will be need to tack on protection for new variants. Only time will tell how long the current jabs give immunity for.