Boris Johnson has admitted the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines into care homes ‘needs to be stepped up’ after it emerged just one in 10 residents has been jabbed.
The Prime Minister — who has pinned all his hopes on being able to vaccinate 13million people by mid-February — also revealed just 14 per cent of care home staff had received the vaccine, despite being five weeks into the immunisation drive.
Experts advising the Government on vaccines have told ministers care homes must be first in the queue the jabs because Covid-19 preys on the elderly and frail.
But Number 10 has blamed complications in getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine into care homes for the poor progress. The Pfizer jab had to be stored in specialised freezers and could only be used in 1,000-dose batches, which meant it was far easier to administer them in hospitals.
However, it is thought that the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab before the new year will accelerate the roll out because its doses are easier to transport. The first doses of the Oxford vaccine are expected to reach care homes this week.
The Department of Health has said it is aiming for all care home residents to have been offered vaccines by the end of January.
Ministers are under huge pressure to protect care homes during the winter wave of the pandemic after being accused of ‘feeding them to the wolves’ in the spring, when more than 20,000 residents were killed by the disease.
Pictured is Ivy Smith, 97, who was among those who received the new coronavirus vaccine at William Harvey Hospital, Kent. Over 80s, care home residents and NHS staff are top priority
A graphic demonstrates the ideal order of priority in which the vaccine will be rolled out, starting with residents in care homes
DOCTORS TO BE PAID EXTRA £10 FOR EVERY JAB GIVEN TO CARE HOME RESIDENTS
Doctors will be paid an extra £10 for every Covid vaccine dose they give to care home residents or staff, NHS England has said.
GPs will be given the additional payment, on top of the standard £12.58 fee for each jab, to compensate for the ‘additional time and resources’ required to visit patients on site.
A letter sent to all primary care networks by health leaders said they had asked local Covid vaccination services to prioritise care home residents and care home staff to ensure this priority group is vaccinated against Covid-19 as quickly as possible.
It reads: ‘We appreciate the additional time and resources needed to deliver the vaccine in a care home setting, especially at this pressurised time of year. Therefore the NHS is providing an additional supplement of £10 per dose on top of the item of service fee for all vaccines delivered in a care home setting.’
The supplement is applicable where the first dose is delivered before the end of January, it added.
While the Pfizer vaccine was limited to care homes with over 50 beds, smaller care homes will be part of the new vaccine rollout from January.
In the House of Commons today, Tory former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers raised concerns that only 13 care homes in the north London borough of Barnet have received vaccinations.
She asked: ‘Will the Prime Minister intervene to make sure the frail, elderly and their carers in Barnet get the vaccinations they need as soon as possible?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘I do want to see an accelerated rollout of vaccinations in care homes.
‘So far, I believe that 10 per cent of care home residents and 14 per cent of care home staff have received the vaccine – but that clearly needs to be stepped up.’
The Independent Care Group, which represents more than 200 providers in North Yorkshire and York, said it is heartening that care homes are a high priority and have been promised the vaccine by the end of the month.
Boris Johnson said the roll out needs to be sped up in care homes
Chairman Mike Padgham said: ‘But we have had similar promises before and we pray the Government can deliver this time. We need a dose of realism.
‘If the Government can deliver the vaccine to homes by the end of January, we want to see them do it swiftly.
‘If they can’t then they must be honest and tell us a realistic timescale. There is no time to lose.’
Ministers are under pressure to protect care homes this time around after more than 20,000 residents were killed during the first wave.
An independent Commons review said care homes were ‘thrown to the wolves’ by the Government when tens of thousands of hospital patients were discharged into the sector without being tested for Covid.
It comes after Britain today breached 1,000 daily coronavirus deaths for the first time since April today and declared another record-high number of cases with 62,322 more positive tests.
Department of Health data shows today’s grim figure of 1,041 laboratory-confirmed deaths — only the 10th time the UK has topped the grisly milestone — is UK’s highest daily count since April 21.
Statistics also show it is the third day in a row that Britain has posted a record-high number of cases, following on from the 60,916 announced yesterday and the 58,784 the day before. The figure is also 24.6 per cent up on last Wednesday’s count of 50,023.
The shocking figures underline the seriousness of the situation Britain finds itself in and come after Boris Johnson desperately tried to win over furious Tory MPs as he defended his new national coronavirus lockdown and insisted he had ‘no choice’ but to impose tough new draconian curbs.
The Prime Minister told a recalled House of Commons that his hand had been forced after a new variant of the disease was found to be spreading with ‘frightening ease’.
Mr Johnson said No10’s mass inoculation programme meant nearly one quarter of over-80s had already received jabs and England had vaccinated more people ‘than in the rest of Europe combined’. He said data suggested one in 50 people are infected showed it is ‘inescapable that the facts are changing’ and the Government’s response had to follow suit.
The lockdown in England, which includes a strict stay at home message and the closure of all schools, is due to be reviewed in the middle of February but the regulations will actually last in law until the end of March.
Mr Johnson today resisted calls from Tory MPs to guarantee the rules will start to be eased after the first review on February 15, fuelling fears the shutdown may last far longer than the initial seven-week period. Tory backbenchers slammed the PM’s ‘malicious’ lockdown and accused him of an ‘assault on liberty and livelihoods’ as they demanded an exit strategy.
The PM said he hoped measures will be able to be lifted in the spring but warned there will not be a ‘big bang’ out of lockdown, rather a ‘gradual unwrapping’.