London on track to reach vaccination target

By Joe Talora, local democracy reporter

London is on track to reach its target of vaccinating 1.5 million people by the middle of February, with more than one million jabs already given out.

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi this morning told the London Assembly that the capital “will continue to receive (its) fair share” of vaccine supply and that he expects the most vulnerable in London to be vaccinated by “the middle of February”.

Mr Zahawi said: “I’m confident that together we will do this, and we will vaccinate the adult population of London and get our lives back and our country back and our economy back.”

He told the London Assembly: “You will continue to receive your fair share of vaccine doses for completing the one to four categories by the middle of February. That is a commitment from me and from the NHS. And beyond that you will continue to receive your fair share to be able to complete the categories five, six, seven, eight and nine, then we move to phase two.

“Our only limiting factor is vaccine supply, but I now have very clear line of sight all the way through to the end of March, week by week, of what we have coming in. And of course, we’ve got other vaccines that will come on board in the spring, so we’ve got tens of millions of doses coming through.”

Last month, there were fears that London would continue to lag the rest of England after it was revealed that the capital was only receiving a tenth of the country’s vaccine supply despite having one of the highest populations of any region.

But this morning, mayoral health advisor Dr Tom Coffey revealed that London’s share of vaccine supply had increased from 10.5 per cent last month to 11.7 per cent this month, thanks in part to the efforts of London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the GLA as a whole.

Dr Coffey said: “Earlier on in the program, London was not getting its fair share of the vaccine. I believe it now is.”

He added: “I think we will have enough vaccines to hit our target of 1.5 million by February 14. If we do about 40,000 (vaccinations) a day, we are likely to hit that target.”

However, there are still concerns about poor uptake of the vaccine in some areas. Dr Farah Jameel, a north London GP and member of the British Medical Association, told the Assembly this morning that 100 per cent of the first two cohorts had been offered a vaccine in her area, but take-up was around 75 per cent.

Martin Machray, joint chief regional nurse for London, said there are “very real reasons why people are hesitant” and that some people need “time to consider the facts”.

This was in response to figures that showed that around 57 per cent of people from a BAME background said they would take a vaccine compared to 79 per cent of white people.

But Mr Machray said: “Let us acknowledge that in some of our communities in London there is a lack of trust in people like me and you; that over the generations the medical profession across the world has not served their families well. So why suddenly would you trust us today? We have to acknowledge that.

“People need time and space to be heard and time to consider the facts, and then make an informed decision.”

Mr Machray said there appears to be evidence that hesitancy is declining, with more people accepting a jab at the second time of offering.

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