London is to host a vaccine summit to discuss how to boost uptake in the capital, as the UK reported the highest number of daily Covid-19 infections since February.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, UK vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said the vaccination programme had been met throughout the country with “phenomenal uptake and enthusiasm” — 82 per cent of all adults had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while three out of five had been given their second.
But Zahawi warned more work was needed to boost the delivery of shots ahead of the planned July 19 unlocking and the government would refocus its efforts on areas such as London, where vaccine uptake has been lower.
Friday’s summit will bring together senior officials, NHS London, mayor Sadiq Khan, clinical experts and community leaders from across the capital, Zahawi said, and will centre on successful methods of boosting uptake. “So we can see what has worked and how we can learn from it and scale it”, he added.
Throughout the pandemic, health leaders have voiced concerns about uptake within the capital. According to the latest NHS England statistics, only 70.7 per cent of those aged 50-54 in the capital have had both doses of the vaccine, compared with 81.1 per cent in the Midlands.
There have also been concerns surrounding vaccine hesitancy among some ethnic groups during the rollout. In March, ONS data revealed that between December 8 2020 and March 11 2021, among over-70s, individuals who identified as Black African, Black Caribbean and those of Bangladeshi heritage recorded the lowest vaccination rates.
However, Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for NHS England and NHS Improvement said some progress had been made. The latest data show that between mid-March and mid-June, uptake among the Asian community rose from 75 to 86 per cent, and from 55 to 68 per cent among members of the black community, she said.
But Kanani warned that pockets of hesitancy remained, noting: “We must remember that we are not quite tackling all of the hesitancy that we see . . . we know some people are still anxious about coming forward for their vaccine.” The NHS is planning a weekend of walk-in slots aimed at boosting vaccine accessibility, she added.
Her warnings came as the UK recorded 16,135 new daily infections on Wednesday, the highest daily figure since February 6. The seven-day rolling average of cases in the country now stands at 11,354 and as of June 21, 1,508 people were in hospital with the virus in the UK.
Commenting on the 41 cases of the Delta-plus variant, a mutation of the Delta variant first identified in India and dominant in the UK, Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said health officials were “on top of the situation”.
Despite the surging case figures, Zahawi said vaccines were proving to be “extremely effective” in combating the virus.
“Fewer than one in 10 people in hospital with the Delta variant had received two doses,” he said, citing data from PHE.
More than 43m people across the UK have now had their first dose, while 31.7m have received their second. Zahawi said the NHS had already given first doses to almost half of all 25- to 29-year-olds in England and around one-third of those aged between 18 and 24.
The minister said the vaccination programme had saved more than 14,000 lives and prevented 44,500 hospital admissions in England. “The one thing we know is the vaccines are making a real difference, the vaccines are our way out of this pandemic,” he said.