Patients ‘desperate’ for Covid vaccine push government for 24/7 rollout

‘I’d have had my vaccination at 3am if offered,’ says palliative care doctor

Tom Batchelor
Tuesday 12 January 2021 12:14 GMT
UK Covid-19 vaccinations: Latest figures

Labour’s call for the government to make the Covid vaccination programme a 24-hours-a-day operation has the backing of many patients still waiting for the jab, despite a suggestion from No 10 that there was insufficient demand.

On Monday, Downing Street rebuffed a plea from Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, for round-the-clock inoculations, saying there was no “clamour” for night-time appointments.

But the policy appears to have the support of many of those keen to be inoculated, with more than 30,000 people ‘liking’ a tweet from Rosena Allin-Khan, the shadow mental health minister, asking for a “hands up if you'd take the vaccine if offered out of hours”.

Responding to Ms Allin-Khan’s tweet, one wrote: “My mum is 66. She has a small pot of money for a taxi should she be called for a vaccine at night. She has fibro, diabetes, diverticulitis, and would risk it to get the vaccine.”

Another said: “Absolutely I will when offered it. Any day. Any time.”

Those comments were reflective of dozens more who said they would be willing to attend an out-of-hours appointment.

Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor and author, said Ms Stratton’s comments were “nonsense”.

“I’d have had my vaccination at 3am if offered. I have patients desperate for theirs, night or day,” she said.

Responses to a tweet from Julia Grace Patterson, a doctor and campaigner, suggested similar levels of support. “Who’s clamouring for 24 hour vaccine services?" she wrote. "Pop a hands-up emoji underneath as a comment if you are. I know I am! Let’s see how far this tweet gets!” More than 6,000 people had liked the post by Tuesday lunchtime.

The apparent support for an extension to the vaccination programme comes after Allegra Stratton, Boris Johnson’s press secretary, suggested there was limited demand for 24-hour vaccinations.

“If you go and have a chat with the NHS, they will say that when they are asking the people who are being offered vaccinations, they’re asking them when it would suit them, what time,” she said.

“If people come back and say they would like an appointment over 8pm then that is something they will consider.

“My understanding is at the moment there’s not a clamour for appointments late into the night or early in the morning.”

Members of staff talk to patient before administering an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS vaccine centre that has been set up at the Millennium Point centre in Birmingham
Members of staff talk to patient before administering an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS vaccine centre that has been set up at the Millennium Point centre in Birmingham (EPA)

Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for Covid vaccine deployment, told the BBC doses were not being offered at night because it was “more convenient for very old people to go from 8am to 8pm”.

Pressed on why nurses and doctors were not administering the jab around the clock to those aged under 80, he said the government was “limited by the amount of vaccine that is coming through the system”.

But Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said about 24/7 vaccinations: “We'll do this if it's needed, absolutely we will do whatever it takes to get this vaccine rolled out as fast as possible.

“The thing is that if both the person doing the vaccination and the person being vaccinated would both prefer for that to happen in the middle of the day, rather than the middle of the night, then that's probably when we should do it.”

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said: “Our wonderful NHS staff are rising to the challenge, as they always do, to deliver the vaccine.

”The British people have sacrificed so much, now the government must deliver for the British people.

“The prime minister needs to use this lockdown to develop a round-the-clock vaccine programme, 24-hours a day, 7 days-a-week.

“If the government can't sort out 24/7 vaccinations they need to admit that this is as a result of their own shortcomings, not blame the public and NHS staff.”

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