England’s Covid booster vaccine divide was laid bare today, with official figures revealing just over a fifth of over-50s have already had their top-up jab in parts of the country.
MailOnline analysis shows some districts have dished out third doses to 90 per cent of the most vulnerable adults, who were originally prioritised when the rollout began towards the end of September.
The booster programme was opened up to over-40s who had their second dose three months ago today, with No10 targeting Christmas shoppers with ‘booster buses’ to help speed up uptake.
Ministers have been accused of overseeing a sluggish campaign, especially in the face of the oncoming wave of cases fuelled by the super-mutant Omicron variant. Experts say booster jabs will shield the NHS over the coming months.
NHS England’s most up-to-date vaccination statistics show thousands of 7,000-plus neighbourhoods dotted across the country have already given third doses to the majority of adults.
But a dozen inner-city areas are massively lagging behind in the roll-out, according to our analysis of the figures.
Just 21 per cent of over-50s in Sparkhill North, a suburb in Birmingham, had received a third jab by November 28. Twelve other areas scattered between Birmingham, Nottingham and Bradford also fall below the 25 per cent mark.
Experts today slammed the unequal roll-out, arguing it meant areas in the country where uptake is low are more vulnerable to the impending wave.
Professor David Livermore, a medical microbiologist at the University of East Anglia (UEA), told MailOnline: ‘Clearly these data reveal considerable variation in the efficiency of booster roll out. The NHS should reboot delivery of the programme in lagging areas.’
England’s Covid booster vaccine divide was laid bare today, with just over a fifth of over-50s having had their top-up jab in parts of the country. Graph shows: The proportion of people who have had a third dose in local authorities across the country
Just 21 per cent of over-50s in Sparkhill North, a suburb in Birmingham, had received a third jab by November 28. Thirteen other areas scattered between Birmingham, Nottingham and Bradford also fall below the 25 per cent mark
No10 announced last week that it plans to ramp up the booster programme to 500,000 jabs per day and offer a third dose to all 53million British adults by the end of January to shield against the incoming wave. But the scheme already appears to be stalling with less than 330,000 delivered across Britain yesterday and just 380,000 administered each day on average. At the current rate, all eligible adults will not be boosted until February 10
Graph shows: The proportion of people aged 12 and over who have had a first Covid vaccine dose in local authorities across England and Scotland
Graph shows: The ten best and worst performing neighbourhoods in England for uptake of the first Covid vaccine dose
Graph shows: The proportion of people aged 12 and over who have had a second Covid vaccine dose in local authorities across England and Scotland
Graph shows: The ten best and worst performing neighbourhoods in England for uptake of the second Covid vaccine dose
Maggie Keenan — the first person in the country to receive a Covid vaccine — urges people to come forward for a jab on rollout anniversary
Today marks a year since Margaret Keenan (pictured) became the first person in the world to receive a Covid jab as part of a mass vaccination programme
The grandmother who became the first person to become vaccinated in Britain a year ago today has urged people to come forward for a vaccine as the Government urges people to get their booster doses.
Margaret Keenan, who a year ago became the first person in the world to have a Covid jab, recently received her Covid booster and flu jabs and encouraged others too.
The 91-year-old said: ‘The best Christmas present I could have is being in good health and having had the jab and feeling free from this horrible virus.’
Mrs Keenan — known as Maggie — spoke at University Hospital Coventry where she received her first vaccine dose on December 8 last year at the start of the mass vaccine rollout.
Describing that moment, Mrs Keenan — a mother-of-two and grandmother-of-four from Coventry in the West Midlands — said: ‘It felt great, honestly, I could not believe that things went so well, afterwards.
‘At the time I wasn’t feeling good but once I got that jab and things started to be better, so I had a wonderful year — thanks to the NHS.’
Speaking about people who have not yet had any jab, she said: ‘It’s amazing how many people don’t want it.
‘I don’t know why because they should have it… everybody should have the jab.
‘I keep saying this over and over again.’
MailOnline’s analysis shows Felixstowe East in Suffolk has the highest uptake rate in the country, with 85.7 per cent of its over-50s having already had a booster.
Two other areas had uptake above 85 per cent, with Yately East in Hampshire (85.5 per cent) followed by Bushey Heath in Hertfordshire (85.3 per cent).
They were followed by Fleet South and Pondtail in Hampshire (84.4 per cent), South Knutsford and Bexton in Cheshire (83.6 per cent) and Frimley Green in Surrey (83.4 per cent).
At the other end of the scale, Hyson Green in Nottingham had the next lowest booster uptake among over-50s in the country after Sparkhill North, with just 21.1 per cent of those in the age group coming forward for a third jab.
It was followed by Sparbrook South (21.9 per cent), Small Health Park (22.9 per cent) and Hockley and Jewellery Quarter (23.2 per cent) — all in Birmingham.
The analysis uses Office for National Statistics (ONS) population estimates from 2020, based on population census from 2011 so is subject to a degree of uncertainty.
Data for first and second doses in particular overestimates the number of under-50s living in particular neighbourhoods because university students may be registered at old addresses.
James Lawson, fellow at the Adam Smith Institute thinktank, told MailOnline: ‘It is disappointing once again to see that the vaccine campaign is lacking pace, with huge regional disparities in booster shots for the vulnerable.
‘There is an over 60 point gap between the most vaccinated and least vaccinated areas. The problem is particularly acute in Birmingham and Nottingham.
‘It’s shameful the vaccine campaign has languished given the Government now looks set to rush back to infringements on our most precious liberties — restrictions its own ministers can’t even comply with, undermining the basic fabric of the rule of law.
‘The vaccines reduce hospitalisations and deaths by around 90 per cent, and there are new treatments, significantly reducing the risk the virus poses and changing the cost benefit analysis of restrictions.
‘Instead of pursuing a callous and costly plan B, the government should be using every lever available to maintain confidence around Plan A. We must learn to live with Covid and effective vaccinations for the vulnerable provide the best protection, not knee-jerk restrictions.’
No10 announced last week that it plans to ramp up the booster programme to 500,000 jabs per day and offer a third dose to all over-18s by the end of January to shield against the incoming wave.
Mr Johnson last week said vaccination centres will be ‘popping up like Christmas trees’ and Health Secretary Sajid Javid pledged to put the booster programme ‘on steroids’ in order to fight off the threat of Omicron.
Despite the efforts, ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson today admitted that another nationwide shutdown could be on the cards to tackle the variant as he warned the strain will be dominant before Christmas.
Downing Street said today that ‘no decisions have been made’ on Plan B. But there is growing pressure after the total number of British Omicron cases rose to 437 yesterday, with the highly evolved variant now in every country in the UK and almost every region of England.
Professor Neil Ferguson warns a full lockdown might be needed to stop Omicron overwhelming NHS
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson today admitted that another nationwide shutdown could be on the cards to tackle Omicron as he warned the super variant will be dominant before Christmas.
The Government scientist, whose modelling bounced No10 into the original lockdown last spring, said the return of stay-at-home orders ‘certainly might be possible’ if the mutant strain threatens to overwhelm the NHS.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘There is a rationale, just epidemiologically, to try and slow this down, to buy us more time principally to get boosters into people’s arms because we do think people who are boosted will have the best level of protection possible, but also to buy us more time to really better characterise the threat.’
Asked outright if a lockdown could be reimposed, he said: ‘Clearly if the consensus is it’s highly likely that the NHS is overwhelmed then it will be for the Government to decide what to do about that but it’s a difficult situation to be in of course. It certainly might be possible at the current time.’
It is unclear how the British public would react to social restrictions over Christmas after fresh allegations surfaced this week that Boris Johnson held a rule-breaking lockdown party in Downing Street last December, when millions of Britons were unable to visit loved ones.
According to reports, No10 is already drawing up new plans for Britons to work from home and for offices to be closed in an attempt to avoid bringing in harsher Christmas curbs.
Mr Johnson and his chief scientists are said to have given a ‘sobering’ Omicron briefing to Cabinet yesterday in an effort to soften up ministers for tougher curbs.
The booster scheme already appears to be stalling with fewer than 330,000 delivered across Britain yesterday and just 380,000 administered each day on average. At the current rate, all eligible adults will not be boosted until February 10.
Fewer booster jabs were given in England this weekend than before Mr Johnson and Mr Javid made their promise to ramp up the programme.
Labour’s shadow health secretary West Streeting slammed No10 for being ‘stuck in first gear’ with the rollout.
He told MailOnline: ‘We want the Government to succeed, but the truth is they’ve been stuck in first gear on the booster roll-out.
‘Let’s hope they’ve finally got a grip and that the latest promises come to fruition. I’m encouraging everyone to get the jab as soon they’re eligible.’
Britons aged 40 and over who had their second jab three months ago are able to book their booster shot from today.
The national booking system has been updated to allow eligible people aged over 40 or in a high-risk group in England to book from today. People will be able to book a month in advance, two months after their second dose.
Younger people will be invited to book their booster in the coming weeks, as officials increase eligibility in five-year age bands.
The NHS will send Covid ‘booster buses’ to retail parks to offer jabs to Christmas shoppers under plans to accelerate the programme. Health chiefs hope the mobile vaccine clinics will help them hit their target of vaccinating 3.5million a week.
The Health Service will make it as easy as possible to get the jab from the likes of pharmacies, churches or shopping centres.
A health source said: ‘We appreciate people are busy in the run-up to Christmas but it is vitally important they get their booster vaccine as soon as they are eligible for it.
‘We will be offering vaccines in thousands of locations and want to make it as easy to get a jab as it is to buy a turkey or Christmas present.’
The NHS is launching a recruitment drive, asking for paid staff and volunteers join the vaccination programme.
Some 10,000 new roles are being advertised, including vaccinators, admin staff and healthcare support workers.
The NHS is also working with the Royal Voluntary Service and St John, to drum up the support of more than 42,000 volunteers.