UK ministers will be deployed to encourage the estimated 10 per cent of over-70s yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to come forward for their first dose, as the government nears its mid-February target to inoculate the most vulnerable.
More than 14m people throughout the UK have been vaccinated with their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while more than 530,000 have received their second dose, according to data published on Friday.
While about 90 per cent of all over-70s throughout the country have now been vaccinated, senior health figures have urged the remaining eligible individuals to contact the NHS in order to receive their jab.
Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS medical director, said: “People in the priority groups have not missed their chance to get jabbed and if you are aged 70 and over and haven’t yet taken up the offer please do come forward and make an appointment — the vaccine is safe, simple and will offer you and those around you crucial protection against this virus.”
Over the weekend, nearly 30 ministers will conduct a series of virtual and in-person visits to vaccination centres as part of a final push to vaccinate the estimated 14.6m within the top four priority groups outlined by the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation by February 15.
Priti Patel, home secretary, will volunteer at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Temple in Bedford, while Gavin Williamson, education secretary, will visit the Whitemoor Lakes site in Staffordshire to meet military personnel who are administering the vaccine.
The government is also expected to publish a new vaccine take-up plan aimed at encouraging society’s most vulnerable, including the mentally ill and asylum seekers, to get a jab.
The plan, which outlines “real-world examples of community-led engagement” also highlights the efforts on a local and national level to ensure that marginalised communities feel confident accessing and receiving the vaccine.
Local leaders have been told to clarify that an NHS number is not required to receive a jab, following reports that hospitals had been told not to vaccinate those without the documentation.
A new vaccination equalities committee is also being established under NHS leadership, which will see government departments partner with local authorities and charities in order to address inequalities in the vaccine rollout.
Nadhim Zahawi, vaccine deployment minister, said that while the government had on the whole seen an “incredible response” to the vaccine programme, he recognised that some communities may still be hesitant.
“Each shot in the arm brings us closer to beating this terrible virus,” he said. “That’s why we are setting out our plan to make sure everyone is protected equally, by working hand in hand with those who know their communities best to make sure as many people as possible take up the offer of a life-saving vaccination.”
The final push by the government to encourage vaccine take-up comes as ministers prepare to outline the country’s path out of lockdown, with Boris Johnson, prime minister, expected to announce on February 22 a “road map” for the lifting of restrictions.