Why London is bottom of the table in the Covid vaccine rollout
London is lagging behind other regions in the vaccine rollout, new figures show, with the capital only vaccinating around half as many over-80s as the Midlands.
According to regional vaccination totals released by the NHS, 199,986 first doses have been administered in London and around 92,000 of those went to over-80s.
The Midlands has administered 387,647 first doses, with around 50 per cent – 140,167 – given to over-80s. The region delivered the first vaccine of the programme when Margaret Keenan received a Pfizer/BioNTech jab last month.
Analysis of the proportion of over-80s living in each region also shows that just 30.6 per cent of this age group have received a first jab in London, compared to around 46 per cent in the North-East and Yorkshire.
The capital is slightly ahead of the east of England, where only 29.2 per cent of over-80s have had the jab, in this age group.
% of age group who received 1st dose so far
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, claimed earlier this week that two fifths of the over-80s had now received their first dose. But the latest data shows just over a third – 36.5 per cent – of those living in England have, while 10.3 per cent have received a second.
The share of Londoners that have received their first jab of a Covid vaccine is also the lowest in England at 2.23 per cent. This figure is highest in the North-East and Yorkshire at 4.31 per cent.
Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, claimed the capital was not getting its fair share of vaccines, saying: "I am hugely concerned that Londoners have received only a tenth of the vaccines that have been given across the country.
"The situation in London is critical, with rates of the virus extremely high, which is why it’s so important that vulnerable Londoners are given access to the vaccine as soon as possible."
Mr Khan later said he had held a "constructive" meeting with Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister.
Downing Street has defended the vaccine rollout, with Boris Johnson’s official spokesman telling reporters: "We’ve rolled out the vaccination programme across the country and we’ve ensured that every area receives a fair share of the vaccinations and we will continue to do that.
"You will continue to see the vaccination programme accelerate through this month and throughout February, and the PM’s been clear that we will ensure there is a vaccine centre close to everybody by the end of the month."
Latest UK vaccines embed
NHS London also insisted that the capital’s vaccination programme had got off to a "strong start" with more than 100 vaccination sites up and running. "London is getting its fair share of vaccine supply for the priority groups we have to vaccinate by mid-February," a spokesman said.
It comes as health chiefs in one London borough warned that doctors were facing a "significant" problem of people refusing to be vaccinated.
Jason Strelitz, the director of public health in Newham – which currently has one the highest infection rates in England – said the borough had hired 450 "Covid health champions" to counter vaccine conspiracies.
"We are under no illusion there is a job to convince people in some of our communities," he told the Evening Standard. "It is going to be a challenge. We are in the early days but we have seen from our champions that there is misinformation being spread on social media and even posted through letterboxes, completely unfounded warnings about the vaccine."
The seven-day average rate of infection in London was 1,047 per 100,000 as of January 8. In Newham, it was as high as 1,406 per 100,000.
Despite the decision to delay second doses and vaccinate more at-risk individuals as quickly as possible, the data shows that 374,103 second doses were administered across England between December 8 and January 10. This includes 81,228 second doses to under-80s.
The South-East has administered the highest number of second doses – 62,394 in total – followed by the North-East and Yorkshire, with 62,351.
Vaccinations by UK region
Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chairman of the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation, speaking in a personal capacity, said the committee’s advice is to delay second doses up to 12 weeks.
He added: "But I think a number of people in the first waves were already booked in for appointments, and I think that’s why you’re seeing those figures. I’d hope they wouldn’t increase too much." He said there were "difficulties" among primary care networks after the decision to delay second doses was given, because patients had already been booked for second doses.
Those administering second doses had not done anything wrong, Prof Harnden added, saying: "We did give them permission to do it any time between three and 12 weeks… but we recommend from a public health perspective that giving the second dose to someone denies someone the first dose. And the more people we get first dose into quickly, the more lives we will save."
For every 100 people in London, just 2.7 jabs – including both first and second doses – have been administered up to January 10, the lowest proportional figure of any NHS region in England. In contrast, nearly double the number of total doses per 100 people have been administered in the South-West and the North-East and Yorkshire, at 5.1 and 5.0.
Dr Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at PHE, said it was a "great achievement" that more than a third of over-80s have already been vaccinated.
"Although this sets us on the right path to getting back to normal life, we are not there yet and people must continue to follow the guidance that is in place to protect themselves and their loved ones," she said. "These data will help us to evaluate the protection from the vaccine and to effectively target the roll-out of the programme to help control the virus and save lives."