Almost two-thirds of elderly care home residents have had a COVID-19 vaccine – with vaccinations among all groups occurring at 200 jabs per minute, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told MPs.
“I’m delighted to say 63% of residents in elderly care homes have now received a vaccination, that is a really significant increase over the last week,” Mr Hancock told the House of Commons on Thursday.
“And we’re on track to deliver on our goal of vaccinating elderly care home residents by the end of this month, and I hope sooner than that.”
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Around two-thirds of all over-80s – who are also among the top four priority groups for a vaccine – have also received a jab, the health secretary also told MPs.
The government has set a deadline of 15 February for offering the first dose of a vaccine to 15 million of the most vulnerable people.
Mr Hancock said, in total, more than five million doses of COVID vaccine have so far been delivered to 4.6 million people.
“This is a huge feat and one in which we can all take pride,” Mr Hancock said. “We’re vaccinating at a greater daily rate than anywhere in Europe.”
He added: “This virus is a lethal threat to us all and as we respond through this huge endeavour, let’s all take comfort in the fact that we’re giving 200 vaccinations every minute.
“But, in the meantime, everyone must follow the rules to protect the NHS and save lives.
“And we can do that safe in the knowledge that the tide will turn and that, with science, we will prevail.”
The health secretary reassured MPs that “early indications” show that current COVID vaccines combat new variants of the virus “just as much as the old variant”.
But he added the government would remain “vigilant to the new variants that we’re seeing overseas”, such as one found in South Africa.
Mr Hancock also played down concerns about an analysis of the Pfizer vaccine in Israel, which suggested the effectiveness of the jab after a single dose was as low as 33% – rather than the 89% that had initially been thought.
The 89% figure – pointing to high short-term protection – was used to help justify the UK’s decision to delay giving a second vaccine dose to people for up to 12 weeks, as part of a push to get as many people as possible in the UK vaccinated with an initial first dose.
But Mr Hancock told MPs the results of the Israeli study “actually support the data that we have been basing our decision on to move to a 12-week dosing schedule”.
“We’re looking at this data and, in fact, we’re measuring the efficacy here at home of those who have been vaccinated by matching the data between those who have been vaccinated and those who test positive,” he added.
“We’re monitoring that and we will publish that data as soon as it is clinically valid.”
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