Huge rise in first Covid jabs as vaccine refuseniks come forward

Large increase in young people finally getting first jab, latest figures for England show

Adam Forrest
Sunday 26 December 2021 16:34
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UK Covid-19 vaccinations: Latest figures

The number of people getting their first jabs of the Covid vaccine soared in the run-up to Christmas, the latest government figures show.

Just over 221,000 first doses were administered in England in the week ending 21 December – a 46 per cent rise from the previous week, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

The largest increase was seen among young people – one of the groups that the vaccine programme has found hardest to reach – with an 85 per cent increase in first doses for those aged between 18 and 24, and a 71 per cent rise for those aged 25 to 30.

The latest data also showed progress in reaching older Britons who had not previously heeded the call for the Covid vaccine. In the week up to December 21, more over-60s had a first dose than during any seven-day period since early June.

Just over 279,000 second doses of the vaccine were also administered in the expanded programme, a 39 per cent jump on the previous week, the figures showed.

More than 30 million people have already had their third dose, and all of those eligible will be offered a booster by the end of the year as part of the “Get Boosted Now” campaign.

Queues formed at pharmacies on Christmas Day with people waiting for their “jingle jabs”, as the vaccination booster programme continued over the festive period in England.

NHS England has thanked health service staff who worked or volunteered on Christmas Day, while health secretary Sajid Javid urged people to “make the booster a part of your Christmas this year”.

Dr Emily Lawson, head of the NHS Covid vaccination programme, said it was “fantastic” to see people coming forward at Christmas. In a message to vaccine refuseniks – as well as those yet to get their boosters – she said: “It is never too late to get your first, second or booster dose.”

Although millions of people have received a booster dose in the last few weeks, around 10 per cent of appointments have been missed nationwide. Hundreds of thousands of people have also been forced to delay their jab after testing positive for Covid.

More than seven in 10 people aged 18 and over have now received their booster, with 27,127,951 people who are more than three months on from their second dose already boosted in England, as of 24 December.

Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie have been pictured on a sofa at Chequers, the prime minister’s official country residence, speaking to NHS vaccination “heroes” on Christmas Day. The prime minister spoke to senior health staff on virtual calls.

Mr Johnson is expected to examine the latest Covid data on Monday. He will have to decide whether to impose new restrictions by Tuesday at the latest if he wants to recall parliament and allow MPs to have their say on any curbs needed over New Year.

Data suggesting that the Omicron variant might cause less severe illness than the Delta strain raised hopes that further restrictions may not be necessary after Christmas.

The UK Health Security Agency estimates that someone with Omicron is 50 per cent to 70 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital than an individual with Delta – something agency chief Jenny Harries referred to as a “glimmer of Christmas hope”.

However, in a gloomy assessment published late on Christmas Eve, the government’s top advisers warned that a large wave of Covid hospitalisations should be expected “soon” and could be worse than last winter’s wave.

The minutes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) meeting on 23 December also warned that the peak in admissions this winter “may be comparable to or higher than previous peaks”.

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