Covid vaccinations: London and east of England lag behind other NHS regions

Dan Sabbagh, Pamela Duncan and Niamh McIntyre
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex/Shutterstock

London and the East of England regions have vaccinated the lowest proportion of people aged over 80, amounting to a little under the third of their total population, according to the first regional figures published by the NHS in England.

An analysis of the newly released data by the Guardian highlights marked regional discrepancies with the two areas well behind the NHS region North East and Yorkshire, where nearly 50% of the over 80s have received at least one dose.

A total of 29% of the over-80s in the East of England region and 31% in London have received a first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or
Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. By contrast, the proportion in North East and Yorkshire is more than 46%.

The reasons for the discrepancies are not immediately clear, although GPs and MPs have complained that there is not enough consistent supply of the two vaccines across England, making it difficult to plan ahead.

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Some of the discrepancy could be due to differing population levels among the 80-plus age category, one of the highest-priority groups: 3.4% of Londoners are aged 80 or more, compared with 5.2% in the north-east and Yorkshire.

Doctors’ surgeries offering vaccinations have had to cancel appointments, restrict bookings and plead for more supplies, as the NHS manages supply of the potentially life-saving vaccinations around the country.

Some GPs have reported that they have been told they cannot start vaccinations of the next target group of people (those between 75 and 80 years) until other parts of the country have caught up – prompting complaints that some areas are being “levelled down”.

The four remaining English regions have been vaccinating the over-80s at a roughly similar rate, with the Midlands achieving 36%, the South East and South West each on 37%, and the North West 38%.

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson acknowledged that the vaccine distribution was uneven while giving evidence to the Commons liaison committee. Reflecting more up-to-date data, the prime minister said the over-80s vaccination rate was “more than 50%, well over 50% now in the north-east and Yorkshire”. But he added it was “less good in some other parts of the country”.

Overall, according to previously released headline figures, 2.25 million people had received at least a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Tuesday. Immunisation rates are running at about 1.3m a week.

The government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has published a list of groups of people who will be prioritised to receive a vaccine for Covid-19 in the UK. The list is:

1 All those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers.

2 All those 75 and over.

3 All those 70 and over.

4 All those 65 and over.

5 Adults under 65 at high at risk of serious disease and mortality from Covid-19.

6 Adults under 65 at moderate risk of at risk of serious disease and mortality from Covid-19.

7 All those 60 and over.

8 All those 55 and over.

9 All those 50 and over.

10 Rest of the population.

The UK needs to reach 2m doses a week in order to reach the 15m most vulnerable people by mid-February. The government aims to offer a first dose to all people in the four most vulnerable categories by 15 February.

The four categories include the over-70s, people who live in care homes, NHS and care workers, and those with serious underlying health conditions.