Four in five over-80s have had first COVID-19 jab despite weekend slump in vaccinations

Almost 80% of people aged over 80 in the UK have have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the government has said, despite a sharp drop in vaccinations over the past weekend.

COVID-19 jab (Photo: Jacob King/AFP/Getty Images)
COVID-19 jab (Photo: Jacob King/AFP/Getty Images)

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said on 25 February that 78.7% of people aged over 80 have now received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine - up from 60% around a week ago.

UK-wide there are 3.3m people aged over 80 - suggesting that around 2.6m in this cohort have had at least one dose of vaccine.

Of the 6.6m total first-dose COVID-19 jabs administered UK-wide to date, around 40% have gone to over-80s. NHS officials have said around three quarters of jabs in England have been administered by GP-led local vaccination sites.

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Mr Hancock told a Downing Street press conference that the government remained 'on track' to give all 15m people in the top four priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) a first dose of vaccine by 15 February.

However, he admitted that supplies of vaccine are 'tight' - a statement echoed on 26 February by vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

GPonline analysis of the latest government daily vaccination figures reveals that on Sunday 24 January, the total number of first-dose COVID-19 jabs administered UK-wide was just 220,249 - around 45% of the 491,970 doses delivered the previous day.

NHS England said it was not aware of cases where snow and difficult weather conditions across the country over the weekend had contributed to the drop - and said the health service would vaccinate as many people as possible dependent on supply. In Wales, however, four vaccination sites were reported to have closed temporarily due to weather conditions.

COVID-19 vaccine dip

Health service officials in England have said vaccine supplies in the coming week could be directed at areas that have made the least progress on vaccinating patients in the top four priority groups.

GPonline analysis of the data for 24 January suggests this targeted distribution of available vaccine may have begun. Vaccines administered on 24 January dropped sharply in every region of England compared with the previous day - but the fall was least significant in London, which by 17 January had vaccinated the lowest proportion of over-80s of any English region.

Vaccination sites in London administered 25,486 first-dose jabs on 24 January, 63% of the previous day's total. In the North East and Yorkshire region, however - which has the highest coverage of over-80s of any region in England - first doses fell to just 29% of the previous day's total.

Mr Hancock said: 'The rate-limiting factor to this vaccination programme remains supply. As we know, supply is tight. We’ve had a very strong performance in this past week. And I’m confident that the NHS will deliver every shot that’s made available to it.'

He said the government was funding a drive to increase uptake in 'hard to reach' groups, providing funds for councils to recruit 'community champions'.

The health and social care secretary warned that the new variant of coronavirus first identified in south-east England was 'spreading 30 to 70% more easily' than the earlier variant - and reiterated earlier comments from prime minister Boris Johnson that it 'may be associated with increased mortality'.

Mr Hancock added that cases of other variants of coronavirus - types first identified in South Africa and Brazil - had also been found in the UK.

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