Care home bosses today blasted Britain’s chaotic Covid booster vaccine drive which has yet to reach hundreds of thousands of elderly residents.
Industry chiefs revealed some facilities have not even been contacted about getting top-up jabs dished out to residents and staff.
And they claimed that inoculation teams aren’t always bringing coronavirus vaccines with them when they administer flu jabs to the elderly.
Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, claimed the roll-out isn’t going as ‘smooth as the previous one’.
Meanwhile, the Outstanding Manager Network — a group representing care home managers — spoke of its ‘frustration’ and ‘nerves about the winter’.
Boosters began being dished out on September 16 to over-50s, health and social care workers and people with underlying health conditions. They are a key part of the Government’s winter plan to manage the spread of the pandemic.
But the sluggish rollout has been criticised, with up to 5million people eligible for a third dose yet to receive it.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair today demanded the Government sets concrete targets to speed the drive up to jab 500,000 a day. It’s currently only reaching about 200,000.
NHS bosses are already facing calls to urgently speed up the programme, with up to 5million people eligible for a third dose yet to receive it. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair today demanded the Government sets concrete targets to speed the drive up to jab 500,000 a day. It’s currently only reaching about 200,000. The graph shows the number of booster jabs that have been administered each day (orange bars) the cumulative booster doses given in October (red line) and the cumulative, compared to the rollout of second doses that were dished out in April (blue line)
Boosters began being dished out on September 16 to over- 50s, health and social care workers and people with underlying health conditions
Ms Ahmed told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ‘the entire methodology of getting this booster in is not quite mirroring what we did last time’.
She said care homes are waiting to be contacted and if they contact surgeries, GPs tell them to contact the NHS instead.
Ms Ahmed added: ‘We have got some homes who are telling us they have not been contacted at all, which is really worrying because they know that they are in the cohort to be having it. They are worried.
‘We are hearing every day that providers are saying to us that “We have not been contacted yet” or “We were contacted to be ready and it is two weeks since then”.
‘There is a concern because obviously the six-month gap is getting bigger and bigger so the efficacy of the vaccine is reducing.’
Ms Ahmed said: ‘We have infection rates that are rising so, for both staff and residents, there is this fear.
Is Britain’s sluggish booster drive already starting to kick in?
Britain may already be beginning to reap the benefits of its Covid booster vaccine drive, according to official data.
Over-85s — who were among the first in line for their top-ups — have seen the biggest slowdown in the growth of cases, in what scientists believe is the ‘early signs’ of the revaccination campaign kicking in.
Cases are on the rise in all age groups, Department of Health figures show.
But MailOnline’s analysis of the week-on-week percentage change in infections show the speed of growth began falling earlier and sharper among those eligible for boosters.
Among the over-90s, week-on-week growth peaked at 35.2 per cent on October 11, before falling by 24.4 per cent to just 10 per cent by October 14.
Weekly growth also fell quickly last week among those aged 85 to 90 — by 11.5 per cent in the last three days —and among 80 to 84-year-olds — by 10.3 per cent.
But Covid cases are yet to show the same signs of slowing down in younger, less-vaccinated groups — particularly children and young adults.
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist based at Reading University, said falling rates in elderly groups may be an ‘early sign’ of a booster effect but added it might be that senior Britons are ‘reducing their socialising as we move into autumn’.
Discussing MailOnline’s analysis, he said: ‘It only represents a few weeks data, so needs to be taken with some caution, but it’s an encouraging sign.
‘News that only about half of this age group have had a booster jab means that, hopefully, there could be a greater decrease of numbers to come. As more age groups reach their six month period and are called for a booster, I expect to see similar effects.’
‘We are still having visitors coming in who don’t have to be vaccinated to come into our service.
‘It is the pressure of the challenge now when we are also facing this chronic shortage of staff which is not being addressed at all.’
Only half of the 2.7million eligible double-jabbed over-80s in England have had their booster dose.
NHS chiefs have not yet published data on exactly what proportion of care home residents and staff have received the top-up injection, but leaked data yesterday suggested just a quarter of residents have received one.
Jane Brightman, co-founder of the Outstanding Manager Network, said managers are reporting a mixed picture of access to boosters.
There is ‘a lot of praise’ for health colleagues in areas where the rollout is taking place efficiently, such as in Kent, Portsmouth and Hampshire, she said.
But in other areas care managers are reporting no contact for the booster or the flu jab yet, Ms Brightman said.
In Greater Manchester, one manager said some services have reported being offered the booster but ‘many’ are saying they have not been contacted for this or a flu jab for residents or staff, she said.
Ms Brightman said: ‘Where it has been efficient, it’s a very positive feeling from the care managers – many see it as another step towards them joining the rest of society and being able to open up more.
‘Where they have heard nothing there is frustration, at this stage I think they are still anticipating it will happen any day soon, but nerves about the winter are incredibly high.’
Ms Brightman said there is also some confusion over whether the booster jabs are mandatory for staff, and called for clearer messaging from the Government and Care Quality Commission.
Department for Health guidance states boosters are not currently mandatory for social care staff, but they could become compulsory in the future.
Managers are ‘strongly advised to encourage workers to take up booster vaccines’, the guidance states.
But they are required to have have had two jabs by November 11 to keep their job.
An NHS spokeswoman said: ‘GP teams and care home managers should be working closely to vaccinate residents who are eligible for a booster, at least six months on from their second dose, and in just two days this week 500 visits to care homes have been reported.’
It comes as a report by Mr Blair’s think tank, the Tony Blair Institute, said ministers should set a daily target for booster jabs, reactivate the vaccine infrastructure set up earlier in the year and start using the AstraZeneca vaccine for boosters.
He said: ‘We’re doing about 165,000 a day. We think you need to take that up to 500,000 and you could do that if you put in place the right mechanisms.’
Meanwhile, a survey from the National Care Forum (NCF), an association for care providers, revealed yesterday care homes have been forced to reject requests from nearly 5,000 people due to staffing shortages over the last six weeks.
The survey of 340 managers who run care services in England showed two-thirds of respondents said staff vacancies meant they had to cap or stop some services, such as accepting admissions from the community and hospitals, as well as offering respite care.
Care bosses cite staff seeking easier and less stressful jobs as a reason for shortages, as well as better pay elsewhere, feeling burnt out and rejecting the mandatory Covid vaccine requirement.