NHS bosses are snubbing thousands of volunteers desperate to help fight Covid by not recruiting them to turbo-charge the vaccine roll out, which is considered the only hope Britain ever has of leaving the never-ending cycle of lockdowns.
Matt Hancock has repeatedly promised the draconian restrictions that have been enforced on a rolling basis since March can be lifted when millions of the most vulnerable members of society have been given the jab — but No10 has never committed to an actual figure, leaving the nation completely clueless about when it will be possible for them to return to living a normal life.
And Downing Street’s plan vaccinate 2million people against Covid every week could already be doomed before the biggest inoculation drive in British history has even properly started, despite pleas from Labour for ministers to ‘move heaven and earth’ and rapidly speed up the roll-out.
GPs say they urgently need more staff to help the UK reach the milestone figure. But NHS chiefs have yet to call upon the Army to help, with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today saying the military ‘stands ready’ to deliver as many as 100,000 doses a day, should it ever be called upon by the health service.
And tens of thousands of retired NHS workers have been prevented from returning to the front line to help in the fight against Covid. Ex-medics say they have been ignored or have put off applying because they had to provide 21 documents to support their application, including evidence of ‘Prevent Radicalisation’ training.
Even Tesco has offered to hand over its network of refrigerated lorries and warehouses to turbo-charge the roll-out.
In another blow to plans of drastically ramping up the vaccination drive, NHS England figures today revealed the speed at which jabs were given out slowed over the Christmas break — dropping from a rate of around 292,000 jabs a week to 243,000 in the seven-day spell ending December 27.
And a MailOnline analysis has revealed the UK may not be able to vaccinate all 30million Brits listed on the priority list until December 2022, if the NHS is only able to continue at the current pace. And it would take twice as long to ensure they are given the necessary second dose.
Even if health chiefs manage to ramp up injections to a million a week, it could still take until August next year for No10 to complete ‘Phase One’ by giving one dose of the jab to the most at-risk members of society.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday promised Britain would deliver the jabs as soon as it gets them, with the boss of AstraZeneca – whose coronavirus vaccine was given the green light yesterday – insisted they could deliver 2million doses a week by mid-January.
But supply issues could scupper the grand plans. No10’s vaccine taskforce pledged to have 4million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab ready by the end of 2020 – but have since warned of ‘manufacturing challenges’. Mr Hancock yesterday revealed Britain will only have 500,000 doses ready to go from Monday.
In more chaotic scenes for No10’s grand roll-out, it was revealed today that GP surgeries have been forced to cancel jab appointments for vulnerable patients after the regulator yesterday extended the time period between getting two doses to 12 weeks in a desperate attempt to get millions more vaccinated quicker.
And dozens of pensioners were left shivering in the cold for more than an hour outside a surgery in Harlow, Essex, yesterday, after turning up for their Covid jab only to find a large queue outside.
Dozens of pensioners were left shivering outside a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Harlow, Essex, yesterday after turning up for their allocated appointment only to find a large queue outside
Just 2,000 people on the Isles of Scilly are left in Tier 1 – with everyone else in England now under the highest Tier 3 and 4 lockdowns from midnight
DOCTORS WILL BE PAID AN EXTRA £10 FOR EVERY JAB THEY GIVE TO CARE HOME RESIDENTS
Doctors will be paid an extra £10 for every Covid vaccine dose they give to care home residents or staff, NHS England has said.
GPs will be given the additional payment, on top of the standard £12.58 fee for each jab, to compensate for the ‘additional time and resources’ required to visit patients on site.
A letter sent to all primary care networks by health leaders said they had asked local Covid vaccination services to prioritise care home residents and care home staff to ensure this priority group is vaccinated against Covid-19 as quickly as possible.
It reads: ‘We appreciate the additional time and resources needed to deliver the vaccine in a care home setting, especially at this pressurised time of year. Therefore the NHS is providing an additional supplement of £10 per dose on top of the item of service fee for all vaccines delivered in a care home setting.’
The supplement is applicable where the first dose is delivered before the end of January, it added.
While the Pfizer vaccine was limited to care homes with over 50 beds, smaller care homes will be part of the new vaccine rollout from next week.
Until now, only larger care homes with more than 50 beds have been able to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab due to storage and transportation concerns.
It has meant that smaller homes, of which there are around 12,000 in England, were left in the lurch.
But yesterday Matt Hancock confirmed there are less limitations for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as it can be stored at more manageable temperatures.
This means it can be sent out in smaller batches – and care home residents are on the priority list to receive the vaccine from next week.
The approval of the vaccine will bring hope to care home residents and elderly people who cannot leave their homes, with care providers saying they are ‘delighted’.
In other coronavirus news:
- Parents rage as some primary schools are allowed to reopen while others several yards away must close;
- Intensive care doctor blames ‘badly behaved public’ refusing to wear a mask for the coronavirus crisis;
- SAGE expert warns a total lockdown by the end of January is inevitable after 20million more Britons are plunged into Tier 4;
- Jonathan Van-Tam warns having the vaccine doesn’t mean pensioners can act with ‘wild abandon and go off to the bingo halls’;
- Doctors are to be paid an extra £10 for every Covid jab they give care home residents – to compensate for the extra time it takes to visit them;
- Critically ill patients in London hospitals are transferred hundreds of miles to Yorkshire because intensive care units are full;
- Police launch crack down on streetparties and fence off Trafalgar Square as scientists urge the public to bring in the new year at home with their household.
Official figures show it could take more than a hundred weeks just to get the first dose of the vaccine to everyone over 50 should health bosses fail to energise the roll out.
But even if they crank up vaccinations to a million a week it could take until August 8 for all those in the priority group to get their first dose.
And reaching the target of two million – which top scientists say is a must to dodge a ‘catastrophe’ in 2021 – would not see all over 50s getting the jab until April 22.
NHS England figures released today, however, suggest the much-hailed Covid-19 vaccine roll out actually slowed down over the Christmas period amid tightening restrictions.
Health chiefs got the jab to 243,039 Britons in the seven days to December 27, but to 543,000 over the first 13 days of the roll out.
Converting this to a weekly rate, suggests before Christmas they were giving the vaccine to 292,000 Britons every seven days.
The Christmas period includes two bank holidays, which may have slowed down plans to dish out the vaccine as staff took time off, but health chiefs have insisted they continued dishing out the jab over the festive period.
Covid-19 testing centres also stayed open during the holidays and did almost 300,000 swabs on Christmas Day, official figures reveal.
There are around 6.5million people in the top priority group – those over 80, working in the NHS, and in care homes. And there are estimated to be a further 24.1million aged between 50 and 75, and 1.1million aged between 18 to 64 who are most at risk from the virus.
Mr Wallace said today the army was ready to help in the vaccine roll out, and had already set 130 military planners to work planning how to distribute hundreds of thousands of doses.
How NHS staff have been stopped from returning to frontline by need to submit 21 documents to support their application
Retired NHS staff have been prevented from returning to the front line to help the fight against Covid this year because of red tape and excessive bureaucracy.
Medics were required to provide 21 documents to support their application to volunteer, which even included evidence of Prevent Radicalisation training.
More than 40,000 doctors and nurses applied to return to the NHS to help with the pandemic, but only 5,000 had been given jobs by July.
Claire Barker, a retired GP who ran her own practice for 30 years until she retired in 2017, said it was ‘impossible’ for her to apply because she could not provide all the proof requested.
Dr Brian Cooper, 73, who used to work at Birmingham City Hospital, was one of tens of thousands of former medics to sign up to the NHS’s call for volunteers when the threat of hospitals being overwhelmed loomed large.
But he claims his offer to help went unanswered for seven months, despite the NHS crying out for more staff to get normal services back up and running.
The NHS boss overseeing recruitment, Andrew Foster, said officials had ignored his plea to create a bank of volunteers.
He said: ‘everybody could see that there was going to be a second wave and a need for vaccinations’ adding his team tried to create their own military reserve of workers.
He told MailOnline: ‘My beef is that the Government have had a tremendous response from doctors and nurses who are willing to go back and help, but there’s no evidence that they’ve been using any more than a handful of such people.
‘There seems to be an inability in the NHS to ease its red tape regulation to facilitate the use of doctors and nurses who are retired. Many of us are frustrated as we have skills to continue delivering non-Covid care, a lot of us are in our late 60s and early 70s.’
He told Times Radio: ‘I’ve also got plans for up to 250 teams of mobile medically-trained personnel who could go out and administer the vaccine around the country – that would be over 100,000 a day they could potentially deliver if that is requested by the NHS.’
But, he added: ‘It may be that the NHS doesn’t require our support to increase that delivery. They have been out recruiting volunteers and people who can deliver the injections.
‘I think what we will say and this is right across the board of the Government response – a bit like the enforcement issues – we stand ready to do that but it is of course correct in our constitution that the civilian authorities make the request.’
Tesco’s subsidiary Best Food Logistics has also offered its fleet of refrigerated vans and warehouses for the national effort, to help move the Oxford jab which needs to be stored at the same temperature as a household fridge, a spokesman for the supermarket confirmed to MailOnline.
Best – which is owned by a division of Tesco – has spare capacity because it also supplies hundreds of pubs and restaurants which have been closed due to the pandemic.
Professor Richard Wilding, an expert in supply chain logistics at Cranfield School of Management, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The chilled food supply chain had conversations months ago about helping out with vaccine distribution in anticipation of approval of this vaccine.
‘I’m not sure if the NHS has the existing capacity to handle moving 100million doses very quickly. I would expect to see logistics experts from the military who can cut through the politics brought in to help, and also commercial operators which would allow distribution to be ramped up very quickly.
‘I believe, working together, they can get the vaccine out to everyone who needs it within a few months.’
More than 40,000 doctors and nurses also came forward to assist the NHS in the first wave, but the Telegraph reports of the 30,000 who were eligible barely 5,000 had even being given jobs by July.
But today GPs complained they needed a ‘larger workforce’ to turbo-charge the vaccine roll out to the desperately needed two million shots a week.
The chairman of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Martin Marshall, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘So far, the number of vaccinations given have been possible within the current workforce, so in general practice, GPs, practice nurses and pharmacists are coming out for clinical work for a day or two days, delivering a vaccine and then go back into work.
‘When we get into the kind of mass vaccination territory, obviously supplies permitting, we will need a larger workforce. And what we’re saying, as a college, is probably the most important workforce is the retirees or returners.’
He added: ‘I don’t think we’re going to go from where we are now,m with 700,000-800,000 people being vaccinated, to two million people being vaccinated per week, I think that’s going to take longer than we suspect.’
The pensioners were left standing in the cold for hours, with some forced to head home to get thicker coats and blankets
The West Essex CCG, which is responsible for the clinic, is yet to comment on why elderly patients were left outside for hours
DOZENS OF PENSIONERS LEFT SHIVERING FOR HOUR AFTER VACCINE APPOINTMENT MIX-UP IN HARLOW, ESSEX
Dozens of pensioners were left shivering outside a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Harlow, Essex, for hours yesterday after an appointments mix-up.
Over 80s turned up at Lister House surgery, Staple Tye, at their allocated time only to find a large queue outside.
Carol Middleton, whose 90-year-old mother Irene was left in the queue for an hour and ten minutes, told Your Harlow that some people were so cold that they went home to get blankets and thick coats.
‘(But) then they had to rejoin the queue at the back,’ she said, ‘so the appointment times people were given in the end became pointless as it was first come first served’.
‘Some people were taking off their own coats to put round their elderly relatives. Mum says some people were really suffering.’
She added: ‘Mum is a hardy soul but even she said she is still shivering and struggling to warm up.’
The Met Office says temperatures in Harlow hit highs of an icy 4C (39.2F) yesterday.
West Essex CCG, which is responsible for the surgery, blamed the queue on ‘teething problems’ and insisted it was ‘working hard to make the process as smooth as we can for local people coming in for their vaccinations’.
Doctors giving the vaccine to care homes will be paid an extra £10 per shot, NHS England said yesterday.
They will be given the additional payment, on top of the standard £12.58 fee for each jab, to compensate for the ‘additional time and resources’ required to visit patients on site.
It comes amid fears the NHS has failed to utilise the ground-swell of support for the organisation and even recruit retired doctors – who may be happy to work for free – to its vaccination drive.
Dr Brian Cooper, 73, who used to work at Birmingham City Hospital, told MailOnline none of his former colleagues who answered the NHS’ cry for aid at the start of the pandemic have been brought back to the wards.
‘I don’t know of anybody who has gone back,’ he said.
After he was signed back up to the NHS in April Dr Cooper, who is a gastro-enetorolgist with expertise in identifying cancers in the stomach and bowel, was asked to do a contact tracing job where no qualifications were required. ‘I responded saying it wasn’t a good use of my time,’ he said.
Dr Cooper then didn’t hear from health bosses for seven months until November, when the NHS organised a Zoom meeting promising they would get in touch in the next two weeks. He is still yet to be asked to do shifts.
‘My sister-in-law is a retired eye surgeon for London. She was asked to go work in the new nightingale in London but that never really got going as you know. She pointed out as well “I’m an eye surgeon”,’ he said.
‘I know a GP in the East of England too who tried to help with vaccinations and was told “well, would you like to help with sorting the car park out in the surgery.”’
‘My beef is that the Government have had a tremendous response from doctors and nurses who are willing to go back and help, but there’s no evidence that they’ve been using any more than a handful of such people.
‘There seems to be an inability in the NHS to ease its red tape regulation to facilitate the use of doctors and nurses who are retired.
‘Many of us are frustrated as we have skills to continue delivering non-Covid care, a lot of us are in our late 60s and early 70s.
‘We can do outpatient clinics, we can do referrals on patients with suspected cancer cases. That would release younger doctors to rally around dealing with acute admissions, or we could be vaccinated and go to the front line.
‘Colleagues would be only too pleased to help in any way they can.’
DOSING ERROR IN OXFORD VACCINE TRIALS LED TO CONFUSION OVER WHETHER HALF DOSE SHOULD BE GIVEN
An error in the Oxford coronavirus vaccine trials led to suggestions patients should receive a half dose followed by a full dose, instead of the two full doses recommended.
Volunteers for the then-experimental jab who received two full doses were 62 per cent likely to be protected from the virus.
But results showed the group that got the half dose – which was smaller and included no over 55s – had protection in up to 90 per cent of participants.
The discrepancy left regulators poring over mountains of data to work out which dosing regimen to approve.
But yesterday Britain’s regulator approved the vaccine to be given as two full doses.
Dr June Raine, its chief executive, said their analysis revealed it was not ‘borne out’ that the half dose gave greater immunity against coronavirus.
In the trials fewer people received the half dose – 3,000 compared to 9,000 – and it was given to no one over 55, who are more at risk from the virus.
The mix-up happened because of a measurement blunder by Oxford University’s researchers.
In May, a quality check on a vaccine delivery from a manufacturer in Italy found the chemicals were more potent than ordered, according to an investigation by Reuters.
The Italian firm, IRBM/Advent, insisted batch K.0011 contained the right concentration of vaccine after checking it using a genetic test known as quantitative PCR, which works out the amount of viral material per millilitre.
But Oxford used a different type of test that estimates the amount of viral matter based on how much ultraviolet (UV) light the material absorbed.
The university believed its method gave a more accurate measurement and so diluted the dose meaning it became a half dose batch.
Supply issues look to set Britain’s vaccine roll out into a further tailspin, after Mr Hancock revealed only 530,000 doses of the Oxford vaccine will arrive by Monday – despite an order for more than 100million doses and becoming the first country in the world to give it the green light.
Shortages of a vital ingredient for Pfizer’s jab in October have also set back its schedules, meaning it is feared officials will not meet the promised delivery target of 5million by the end of the year.
Officials close to the matter told the Financial Times there was disruption to the supply of lipid nanoparticles – bubbles of fat – which are used to deliver the genetic code of the virus’s spike protein.
Andrey Zarur, chief executive of GreenLight BioSciences, a US company that works with mRNA used in the vaccine, told the publication that the availability of this product is ‘fairly restricted’ in Europe.
Plans for the vaccine roll out were thrown into yet more chaos last night after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said up to 12 weeks could be left between each dose – leaving GP surgeries scrambling to cancel and re-book appointments.
Venting frustration at the authorities, Oxfordshire GP Dr Helen Salisbury wrote on Twitter: ‘Can I ask Matt Hancock to come and do a shift on our phones, ringing our 80 plus patients to explain that their second dose of the vaccine has been cancelled?
‘Our primary care network (PCN) needs to cancel 1,160 appointments and re-book another 1,160. At five minutes per phone call, that’s 193 hours work. Not to mention the grief and anger.’
Doctors union the British Medical Association slammed medicines regulator the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) today, saying their decision to allow 12 weeks between the first and second dose of the vaccine was ‘grossly unfair’ on patients that have already received the first dose.
Firing shots at the regulator, the chairman of its GP Committee, Dr Richard Vautrey, said it was ‘unprofessional and impractical’ to cancel and re-book appointments for tens of thousands of frail elderly patients.
‘The decision to ask GPs, at such short notice, to rebook patients for three months hence will also cause huge logistical problems for almost all vaccination sites and practices,’ he warned.
‘For example, to make contact with even just two thousand elderly or vulnerable patients will take a team of five staff at a practice about a week, and that’s simply untenable.
‘The BMA believes the existing commitment made to these patients by the NHS and local clinicians should be respected. If GPs decide to honour these booked appointments in January, the BMA will support them.
‘The Government must see that it’s only right that existing bookings for the oldest and most vulnerable members of our society are honoured, and it must also as soon as possible publish a scientifically-validated justification for its new approach.’
HAVING THE VACCINE DOESN’T MEAN PENSIONERS CAN ACT WITH ‘WILD ABANDON AND GO OFF TO THE BINGO HALLS’ SAYS JVT
Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam on Wednesday urged people to be ‘patient’ before they act with ‘wild abandon’ when they have been vaccinated against coronavirus
Having one of the new coronavirus vaccines does not mean Britons, including pensioners, can act with ‘wild abandon and go off to the bingo halls’, the Deputy chief medical officer has said.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was asked at Wednesday’s Downing Street press conference whether people who have had two doses of a vaccine would still have to follow strict rules such as not seeing their families.
The scientist defined the question as whether ‘it’s OK to behave with wild abandon and go off to the bingo halls and so forth’.
He said a lot was still unknown about whether jabs stopped people passing the disease to others and urged people to be ‘patient’.
The official told reporters that the ‘magic phrase’ was ‘transmission’ and said scientists would know within a couple of months how effective the vaccines are at reducing the chances of ‘severe illness’ from Covid.
His comments yesterday came after regulator the Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency on Wednesday approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and figures showed around 280,000 people a day are currently being given the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
Professor Van-Tam told reporters: ‘The magic phrase is transmission, I think we can be confident and we will know quite quickly within a matter of a couple of months the impact of these vaccines on reducing severe illness in the population, and when we know that we’ll be able to say – I hope we’ll be able to say – when you’re fully vaccinated, your chances of severe illness from Covid are very markedly reduced.
‘Right now we can’t say that is synonymous with not being able to pass the virus on to others.’
He went on: ‘We don’t know if the vaccines will reduce transmission yet.’
He later added: ‘I can’t give you the assurance that you won’t still pose a hazard to others through transmitting the virus.’