Today in response to a question by Philippa Whitford, Matt Hancock confirmed that only 24% of care home residents in England have been vaccinated. Also today, the First Minister indicated that 80% of care home residents and staff have now been vaccinated. Some councils, Inverclyde and North Ayrshire claim 100%.
Yesterday, in Parliament, Whitford explained in greater detail:
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation was very clear that those who live in care homes were the top priority for vaccination against covid-19. Due to integration of health and social care, Scottish health boards were able to deliver the Pfizer vaccine into care homes in December, and well over 70% of such residents have already been vaccinated across Scotland. In my own health board, the phase is almost complete. So can the Minister explain why in England care home residents were not the first cohort to receive the Pfizer vaccine in December, and as only a quarter have received their first dose, when does he expect all such residents to have been vaccinated?
People over 80 years are now being offered vaccination, but there are only 1,200 sites to cover the whole of England—a similar number to Scotland, which has less than 10% of the population. This means elderly people are being asked to travel long distances, despite their age and the fact that many will be also shielding. As the letter does not offer the option to wait and have their vaccine at a local GP surgery, does the Minister recognise that many are now feeling pressurised into travelling, despite the current dangers? So will he take this opportunity to clarify that the vaccines will gradually be made available through all GP surgeries and that elderly patients who cannot travel long distances will be offered a further opportunity closer to home?
The Minister will be well aware of the public concern about the decision to delay the second dose of each vaccine so as to ensure more people receive the first dose more quickly. With the current surge in covid cases, I totally understand the rationale for this approach. So can he explain why there have been more than 300,000 additional second doses given over the last week, despite the JCVI announcement on 31 December, and can he guarantee that sufficient quantities of the Pfizer vaccine will be available by the end of February to ensure those given their first dose in early December will receive their booster on time?