Ministers plead for Britons to get their Covid booster vaccines after take-up flatlines ‘with TWO MILLION appointments still available this week’
- Just 100k got a booster on Sunday compared to 800-to-900k prior to Christmas
- Ministers have blamed recent uptake on two weekends of festive bank holidays
- Lagging jab figures come as UK faces staff shortages due to Covid self isolation
Britons were today urged to come forward to get their Covid booster vaccines amid fears uptake has stalled over the festive period.
Official data shows the number of people getting boosted fell to just over 100,000 on Sunday, the latest day for which vaccine information is available,
This is compared to highs of over 900,000 before Christmas which saw desperate adults struggle to get appointments.
Whitehall insiders claim up to 2million jab appointments are still available this week.
Asked about the current situation today, vaccine minister Maggie Throup blamed the low take-up on the public holidays.
Britons shouldn’t be offered a fourth Covid jab until there is more evidence, the head of the country’s vaccine body has claimed.
Sir Andrew Pollard, chairperson of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said giving boosters to people every six months was ‘not sustainable’.
He said future vaccination drives should target the most vulnerable rather than offering top-up doses to all over-12s.
Germany and Israel have already approved a second booster jab for all over-60s.
But the top scientist said: ‘The future must be focusing on the vulnerable and making boosters or treatments available to them to protect them.
‘We know that people have strong antibodies for a few months after their third vaccination, but more data are needed to assess whether, when and how often those who are vulnerable will need additional doses.
‘We can’t vaccinate the planet every four to six months. It’s not sustainable or affordable. In the future, we need to target the vulnerable.’
The professor, who was chief investigator of the Oxford Covid- 19 vaccine trials and director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, helped develop the AstraZeneca jab in 2020.
‘We’ve just been through two weekends of bank holiday and I think that’s quite clear that numbers will change as we move forward,’ she told Times Radio.
She also urged people to come forward for their booster, adding ‘it’s never too late’ to get the vaccine.
No10 has repeatedly urged Britons to get their booster jabs with Boris Johnson and senior ministers making public appeals.
The Prime Minister said boosters were critical for the country to stick to its current plan in dealing with Covid.
The Government has already bragged that it it hit its target of offering third jabs to all eligible over-18s by New Year’s Day,. But still only 59.5 per cent of adults have had all three doses.
But the actual number of booster vaccines being dished out has drastically slowed, according to official figures.
Just 240,000 top-up jabs are being dished out every day across the UK at present — compared to highs of 875,000 in the week running up to Christmas.
Daily figures dropped to as low as 10,000 on December 25 itself, however, because only a handful of vaccination centres were open.
The slowing uptake comes as the latest figures show that 157,758 Covid cases were recorded yesterday, up 44.6 per cent on the week before.
Rising case numbers could also be playing a role in the sluggish roll-out, as people need to wait 28 days after testing positive to be eligible for a jab.
The importance of getting a booster was highlighted by a UK Health Security Agency Covid surveillance update last week.
It revealed 608 out of 815 hospitalised patients struck down with the ultra-infectious variant were not triple-jabbed. A quarter were unvaccinated.
On the current Covid situation, Ms Throup said the Government was keeping a close eye on data, particularly in regard to hospitalisations.
‘We are looking at the data all the time with regards to hospitalisations… people who have actually tested positive and also the number of people in the high dependency units as well.
‘I think, at the moment, if you look at people who’ve been hospitalised then they are going in with less severe conditions than before.
There has been huge reduction in the number of Britons coming forward for a Covid booster in since Christmas official figures show
‘And the numbers that are in hospital beds is about half what it was a year ago, and that just shows the power of the vaccine.’
But NHS bosses have warned the biggest challenge for many hospitals is ‘rising staff absences’, rather than the number of patients with Covid.
One in 10 NHS employees were off sick on New Year’s Eve due to illness, according to official figures — but less than half had Covid, amounting to fewer than 50,000 of the 110,000 not in work.
Chris Hopson, chairman of NHS Providers, said staff absences were having a greater impact than during last January’s Covid wave.
He tweeted: ‘Staff flat out, especially given level of staff absences. We will need to ask them to perform flexible heroics again if hospital Covid numbers continue to rise. We can’t keep doing this.’
Other sectors, such as rail and waste collection are also facing disruption due to the number of workers having to quarantine.
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