Millions of eligible people in England have not had their Covid booster dose, official figures show – despite the Prime Minister insisting No10’s third dose target has been met.
Boris Johnson today bragged that the Government had achieved its goal of offering a top-up vaccine to all adults by the New Year.
But vaccination figures show 9.5million people who were double-jabbed by the end of September – and therefore now eligible for their third dose – have yet to get their booster.
Mr Johnson told the nation in a televised broadcast earlier this month that all eligible adults in England ‘will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year’.
No10 and the NHS subsequently clarified their goal was to invite eligible Britons for a vaccine before the end of the year, rather than deliver those doses.
Top-up jabs are the Government’s key plan to suppress hospitalisations and deaths during the ongoing Omicron wave, with ministers hoping they will prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed and stop them from needing further restrictions.
NHS bosses said while it was ‘encouraging’ to see people coming forward for their jabs, some vaccination clinics were only a third full.
And the country’s top doctor said the vaccine rollout has been ‘pretty slow’ over the festive period, which has been ‘frustrating for the staff’.
Britons took to Twitter to say the target was only met because the wording was that adults would be ‘offered a booster’.
Steve Churton, former president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, accused the PM of being ‘disingenuous’.
He said: ‘You could have hit your target on the very day of your offer by sending out the millions of text messages you eventually did. Your target was to vaccinate – not to offer to vaccinate. And you are way off doing so – entirely predictably.’
Boris Johnson last night urged everyone to make getting jabbed a New Year resolution to help keep the nation free from lockdown
More than 28million people in England had their booster dose by December 29, but 9.4million people who were eligible by that date had not yet had their top-up injection
Data from the UK Health Security Agency shows 58.3 per cent of over-12s across the UK have now had three does, while 90 per cent have had one jab and 82.4 per cent are double-vaccinated
Data from the UK Health Security Agency shows 58.1 per cent of over-12s in England have now had three does, while 89.9 per cent have had one jab and 82.2 per cent are double-vaccinated
UK Health Security Agency data shows 37.6million people in England were double-jabbed by September 29.
But by December 29, just 28.1million were triple-jabbed, meaning 9.5million of those eligible have not yet come forward.
A proportion of those would have caught the virus in the last month, meaning they weren’t allowed to book a top-up dose.
Mr Johnson on December 12 brought the target of offering all adults in the country a top-up jab by the end of January forward by a month amid concerns about the more-transmissible Omicron variant.
He said: ‘Everyone eligible aged 18 and over in England will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year.’
Nurse Salak Ali (right) administers a ‘Jingle Jab’ Covid vaccination booster injection to a patient at the Good Health Pharmacy in North London on Christmas Day this year
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) later clarified that people would be offered a jab by the end of the year rather than all of those eligible receiving a booster by then.
The DHSC today said those eligible have now had the chance to get a third dose, so the Government’s target has been met.
More than 8million third jabs were administered between the PM’s booster announcement and December 30 and the NHS has ‘broken record after record’ by dishing out 830,000 top-up doses in a single day and giving out a million Covid jabs in one day – which included first, second and third jabs, the DHSC said.
Seven in 10 of those eligible for boosters have now had it, it added.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Our world-leading vaccination programme has meant tens of millions of people have been able to see their loved ones this Christmas knowing they have the protection of the booster.
‘I am delighted to confirm we have hit our target of offering a Covid booster to all adults by the New Year.
‘I am incredibly proud of the work the NHS has done to accelerate the programme and offer my thanks to the frontline staff, volunteers, Armed Forces and British public who have made it possible for us to meet this commitment.’
Susannah Tarbrush, a Kensington and Chelsea resident, tweeted that it’s ‘all very well’ for the Prime Minister and Health Secretary to crow about meeting the booster target, but just over half of people in her borough are double-jabbed while a third are booster.
The picture is ‘similar in many London boroughs’, she said.
Gyll King took to Twitter to question how the Government knows they have offered a booster to all adults. ‘Is it the text message we all got?’, she said.
Twitter-user Mackem Fox said the target was only met because the wording was that all Britons would be ‘offered a booster’.
Andrew Simpson tweeted that January 10 is the earliest date he can get a booster appointment.
Meanwhile, NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said some primary care leaders have reported people were not turning up to as many as 40 per cent of their booked appointments.
And Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, yesterday warned the rollout almost ground to a halt over Christmas.
‘The vaccination programme is going OK but it’s been pretty slow over the Christmas period, particularly in the GP centres,’ he told Times Radio. ‘I suspect that will pick up again come January but it’s been a little bit frustrating for the staff.’
But in an upbeat New Year message, the Prime Minister insisted the Covid situation is ‘better than last year’.
He said: ‘Whatever the challenges that fate continues to throw in our way and whatever the anxieties we may have about the weeks and months ahead, particularly about Omicron and the growing numbers in hospitals, we can say one thing with certainty – our position this December 31 is incomparably better than last year.’
It comes after the UK’s daily Covid cases yesterday hit a new pandemic high of 189,213, which includes two days of figures from Wales, while deaths jumped to 332 and hospitalisations in England nearly doubled in a week, reaching the highest level since February.
Mr Johnson hailed the success of the UK’s booster programme, but he used his address to issue a stark warning to people who have not had all their jabs.
In a video message posted online this morning, Mr Johnson said: ‘I want to speak directly to all those who have yet to get fully vaccinated.
‘The people who think the disease can’t hurt them. Look at the people going into hospital now – that could be you.
‘Look at the intensive care units and the miserable, needless suffering of those who did not get their booster – that could be you.
‘So, make it your New Year’s resolution. Get that jab and do something that will make 2022 a happy New Year for us all.’
Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer used his own New Year message to promise to set out a plan to ‘build a new Britain’.
The Labour leader, who will begin 2022 with his party ahead in recent opinion polls, said: ‘I believe the best still lies ahead for Britain. That, if we make the right choices, together we can seize the future and make it work for every family in every part of Britain.
‘That must be the true legacy of all the sacrifices and pain of the past two years of the pandemic.’
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey used his message to say he hoped 2022 will be ‘the year we will finally beat Covid’.