Has every care home resident REALLY been offered a Covid jab? Minister confronted over NHS’s claim admits ‘a small number’ still need to be done in February – and pledges to personally help homes that haven’t had vaccines
- Residents at more than 10,000 care homes have been vaccinated, NHS said
- But some have not been visited by medical teams because of Covid outbreaks
- Care home residents and staff were top of the UK’s vaccine priority list
England’s minister for social care, Helen Whately, has admitted that the NHS has not offered Covid jabs to everyone living in care homes despite its claim today.
The Government target had been to get vaccines to all people living in residential care homes in England by the end of January.
And NHS England this morning said it had hit the goal with the caveat ‘at every eligible care home’.
Those ineligible ones are homes that have been mid-way through coronavirus outbreaks and deemed unsafe for vaccination teams to go into.
Ms Whately said this morning that this was only a ‘small number’ of care homes and that they would be followed up in the coming weeks.
When confronted on BBC Radio 4 with cases of residents who had not yet been offered vaccines the social care minister vowed to personally follow up the cases and get them jabs, encouraging members of the public to email her directly.
Care home bosses are now urging the NHS to vaccinate more care workers to give more protection to the elderly amid concerns that uptake has so far been low.
And they are angry about the decision to delay the second dose of the jab, which may prevent them loosening visiting rules, while actress and now campaigner Ruthie Henshall said visiting should be allowed because residents are ‘dying of loneliness’.
Care minister Helen Whately said today that a ‘small number’ of care homes still need to be visited by vaccination teams in the next couple of weeks
Care home residents were top of the UK’s vaccine priority list because they are at a high risk of dying if they catch Covid-19 (Pictured: 100-year-old Nell Prosser gets her jab at a home in London)
Britain has now vaccinated 8.9million people against Covid-19, putting it almost two thirds of the way to its target of reaching 15m by mid-February.
The vast majority of these people – around 8.4million – have only had one dose of a jab and will have to wait up to three months for their second for full protection.
But, if the February 15 target is hit, Boris Johnson has pledged to consider beginning to lift lockdown rules from March 8, with school reopenings first on the list.
The Prime Minister said today: ‘Today marks a crucial milestone in our ongoing race to vaccinate the most vulnerable against this deadly disease.
‘We said we would prioritise and protect care home residents, and that is exactly what we have done.’
But NHS England said in its press release that Covid outbreaks had prevented some care homes from getting vaccines for their residents and staff – it is not clear how many.
When challenged on the Government’s claim that it had offered jabs to all care home residents, Ms Whately said on the Today programme: ‘I would say there’s a small number because of an outbreak where the director of public health has said that at the moment it’s not appropriate to go in that will need to be visited in the next few weeks.’
She added: ‘We have offered a vaccine to every care home where it’s possible to go in.
‘I know because I said we must make sure that we communicate… we emailed out to every care home last week and the week before “if you haven’t heard from the vaccination team, let us know” and so we’re making sure that anyone that says they haven’t heard would let us know so that we could send a targeted team in to do that.’
When Ms Whately was confronted with a story of a 103-year-old care home resident in Kent who had not yet been vaccinated, she encouraged people to contact her personally.
‘Anyone like that listening, or any care home that [hasn’t] been contacted, just let me know, I will personally follow up,’ she said.
The social care minister, who is MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, can be reached through the contact page of her website.
NHS England said people living at more than 10,000 eligible care homes with older residents had been offered the jab as almost 600,000 coronavirus vaccines were given out in Britain – a daily record.
But there are concerns that up to one in five care home staff are refusing the jab.
The Government will announce today that the care home milestone, which it promised to reach by the end of January, has been achieved in the nick of time.
A small number of homes had visits deferred for safety reasons during a local outbreak but would be visited as soon as it was safe for NHS staff to do so, a spokesman for NHS England said.
Nine in 10 people over 80 have received their first jab, along with three quarters of people aged 75 to 79, the figures show. People in their 60s are expected to start receiving invitations for jab in the next few weeks as the rollout continues to gather pace.
Care UK, one of the largest care home chains, said that all but one of its 124 homes had already been visited by vaccination teams. It said that about 85 per cent of residents had received the first dose of the vaccine but it was expecting the proportion to rise once it received updated figures.
But up to a fifth of care home staff have refused the offer of a Covid vaccine as bosses are taking legal advice over whether they can force reluctant workers to get the jab. Data from a number of providers shows between five per cent and 21 per cent of workers offered a vaccine have declined it.
The leader of Enfield Council, Nesil Caliskan, said most care home staff hesitant to have the vaccine in her borough were predominantly ethnic minority workers. ‘The staff are heavily represented by BAME communities in London, and it has been difficult to get the messaging out’, she said.
Up to half of those in some areas with a high ethnic minority population are refusing the coronavirus jab, a poll last month revealed.
Social care minister Helen Whately said today that care home staff won’t be forced to get jabs.
‘We know that there were some staff that were worried about the idea of having the vaccination,’ she told BBC Breakfast.
‘But what I am hearing is that when the vaccination teams go into the care homes staff are coming forward. Some might be nervous but when they see their colleagues getting the vaccination, when they see that it’s all right… we really are seeing good take-up from care home workers.’
Ms Whately said it was too soon to beginning relaxing the rules on care home visiting.
‘At the moment it is too soon. We have had care home residents only just vaccinated,’ she said.
‘We know it takes time to build up immunity and we also know we have really high rates of Covid still in the wider community. So we can’t say it is OK to open up yet.’
Last night, the Prime Minister hailed the success as ‘a crucial milestone in our ongoing race to vaccinate the most vulnerable against this deadly disease’.
‘We said we would prioritise and protect care home residents, and that is exactly what we have done,’ he said.
‘There will be difficult moments to come, and the number of cases and people in hospital remains dangerously high. But vaccines are our route out of the pandemic, and having protected 8.9 million people with a first dose so far, our rollout programme will only accelerate from here on.’
Staff are also returning to homes to deliver vaccines to any residents who were unable to have it on the previous visit for clinical reasons.
NHS England’s primary care director Dr Nikki Kanani said: ‘I want to thank my colleagues, and everyone involved in the vaccine rollout for their extraordinary work in recent weeks, as it is because of their tireless efforts that millions of people have already been vaccinated, including hundreds of thousands of care home residents, and as a result we are a vital step further in our fight against Covid-19.
‘It has been a privilege to vaccinate some of the most vulnerable people and the wonderful people who look after them.
‘Many have had little contact with the outside world throughout the pandemic and so it has been truly humbling for all, giving them hope and importantly protection against the disease.’
There were however some concerns that older people who receive visits from social care workers in their own homes are being forgotten.
Ben Maruthappu, the boss of Cera, one of the UK’s largest home care providers, said that only 1 per cent of the 10,0000 older people it cared for in their own homes had been vaccinated.
There are also concerns of a low take-up in vaccinations by care home staff.
It comes as almost 600,000 coronavirus vaccines were given out, smashing the previous record of 491,970 jabs in a single day.
The total number of people in the UK who have now received at least one dose of the jab, seen as the antidote for our way out of the pandemic, is 8,977,329.
With the number of inoculations given each day continuing to rise, ministers are confident that they will also achieve the target of offering a first vaccine to everyone over the age of 70 or clinically extremely vulnerable by the middle of February.
To achieve such a feat, vaccinators would need to give out an average of 401,512 first doses each day between now and the target date.
To accelerate the rollout, vaccinations are now being administered at more than 250 hospitals, 1,000 GP-led services, 117 high street pharmacies and 47 large-scale vaccination centres across the country.
Government data up to January 30 shows of the 9,468,382 jabs given in the UK so far, 8,977,329 were first doses – a rise of 598,389 on the previous day’s figures.
Some 491,053 were second doses, an increase of 10,621 on figures released the previous day. The seven-day rolling average of first doses given in the UK is now 374,858.
Based on the latest figures, an average of 401,512 first doses of vaccine would be needed each day in order to meet the Government’s target of 15 million first doses by February 15.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘I’m delighted that 598,389 people received their first Covid vaccine yesterday – the highest day so far.
‘Each vaccine administered brings us one step closer to normal.
‘Thank you to all involved.’
NHS staff in St Austell, Cornwall even managed to vaccinate more patients in 24 hours than Latvia, Lithuania and Ecuador combined after receiving 1,000 batches of Pfizer vaccine in the night, Cornwall Live reports.
In England alone, nearly 550,000 vaccines were given, while a further 25,299 jabs were administered in Wales and 23,055 in Scotland. Figures for Northern Ireland have not been published.
According to NHS England data, 7,792,996 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 539,691 on the previous day’s figures, while 458,150 were the second dose, an increase of 10,252, between December 8 and yesterday.
This marks the highest number of jabs given to Britons so far as the government looks to bring the cycle of coronavirus lockdowns to an end by proceeding with its breakneck rollout of the vaccines.
It comes as coronavirus cases and deaths fell again today on last week as the latest official figures suggest that the national lockdown is helping to suppress the virus.
Data from the Department of Health show that the UK recorded 21,088 daily Covid-19 cases today, down by 29.7 per cent from 30,004 cases last Sunday.
The same figures also show that daily Covid-related fatalities fell by 3.7 per cent from 610 deaths last week to 587 deaths today.
There are currently nearly 35,000 people in hospitals in the UK and 3,832 patients on ventilators, according to the latest official figures.
The second wave has seen bigger numbers of coronavirus patients in hospitals, with 21,684 patients during the peak of the first wave of the pandemic last April.
It comes as grim new graphs lay bare the dilemma facing Boris Johnson’s government as officials try to work out how to reopen the country without causing a third wave of coronavirus infections, as SAGE recommends keeping social distancing measures in place until 2022.
Modelling passed on to No10 suggests that restrictions including the dreaded Rule of Six may have to remain in place until the end of the year, while coronavirus vaccines would need to be 85 per cent effective to prevent a surge in deaths if curbs were totally eased.
A downbeat paper commissioned by SAGE subgroup SPI-M and produced by the University of Warwick showed that the UK could experience a large spike in deaths if inoculation fails to significantly cut transmission of Covid-19 while draconian shutdown measures are relaxed.
It warns that a ‘high uptake’ of vaccinations is also vital to getting the country back to normal without risking a dreaded third wave of the disease, which has now claimed more than 100,000 lives according to official figures.
The paper also claims that even with Britain’s breakneck jab roll-out well underway, the decline in deaths would be crushingly slow – and that even in a best-case scenario lockdown would have to be kept in place until June to prevent another significant spike in deaths.
‘Only vaccines that offer high infection-blocking efficacy with high uptake in the general population allow relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions without a huge surge in deaths,’ the paper recommends.
Lead researcher Dr Sam Moore said that even if vaccines do have a significant impact on reducing infections, the impact will not be seen ‘for some time to come’. He added: ‘So I think they have to relax slowly and we’re going to have to be patient. ‘And we need a very high uptake in order to have this effect.’
The modelling, which helps to explain why Boris Johnson is so reticent to end the third national coronavirus lockdown, comes amid renewed pressure from Tory backbenchers for a ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown.
So far the government’s route out of the cycle of shutdowns initiated last March would see schools closed until at least March 8, with hospitality businesses including pubs and restaurants to reopen as far away as April.
But with Rishi Sunak mulling increases to capital gains tax to pay for the massive £400billion blackhole in public spending accrued during the pandemic and warnings that the economy could take a decade to recover, Tory MPs are likely to be rattled by the new graphs.
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