Elderly Britons may be missing invites for Covid jabs because GPs are having to TEXT them – Daily Mail

Number 10 has insisted all areas have had equal access to the coronavirus vaccine amid mounting anger over a jabs ‘postcode lottery’.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman dug his heels in on the claims today, saying ministers had ‘ensured’ everywhere received the same supplies. 

Matt Hancock yesterday revealed some regions were lagging behind schedule in the rollout to over-80s — despite No10 announcing the scheme was being expanded to all over-70s and adults with underlying conditions.

But the Health Secretary hinted supplies have not been equally distributed, as he claimed they were being diverted to areas which were way off target.

No10 has yet to confirm whether ‘equal’ means all regions got the same number of doses, or enough doses to vaccinate the same proportion of over-80s. London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said last week he was ‘hugely concerned’ by the sluggish rollout in the capital, complaining about the city’s vaccine supply.

Official figures reveal almost 390,000 in London had received their first dose by January 18, while more than 700,000 got theirs in the Midlands and 630,000 in the North East and Yorkshire.

Doctors on the frontlines have complained limited supplies are hampering Britain’s largest ever jab rollout, and claim they could do more with more regular deliveries.

It comes as a GP helping to organise jab appointments in Sheffield reveals over-80s have been texted to secure slots – despite rarely checking their phones. Dr Ollie Hart said he was concerned it was leading to many missing their jabs. 

‘The difficulty for us has been the short notice of supply, which has meant we’ve had to contact most people by mobile phones and by telephone rather than sending letters and having a more staged and planned approach,’ he said.

‘So that has meant if people haven’t been in or we haven’t been able to get hold of them sometimes we might of missed people.’ He urged over-80s still waiting to hear from their surgeries to give them a call to ensure they hadn’t missed any calls or text messages.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine poses few problems for surgeries because it can be stored in standard fridges for months. But the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — which was the first to be approved — must be used five days after it is defrosted. 

Dr Hart said once supplies of the jab are delivered there is usually only three-and-a-half days left, leading to frantic calls to the priority groups to ensure no supplies are wasted. The NHS says most invites are sent as letters — but GP practices can invite their own patients by text.

More than 4million Britons have now had their first dose — but rates vary across the country. 

A medic prepares to vaccinate patients at a Covid-19 jab centre set up inside the Bournemouth International Centre

A medic prepares to vaccinate patients at a Covid-19 jab centre set up inside the Bournemouth International Centre

A medic prepares to vaccinate patients at a Covid-19 jab centre set up inside the Bournemouth International Centre

People sit and talk to healthcare workers as they wait to receive the coronavirus jab at a vaccination centre inside the Blackburn Cathedral

People sit and talk to healthcare workers as they wait to receive the coronavirus jab at a vaccination centre inside the Blackburn Cathedral

People sit and talk to healthcare workers as they wait to receive the coronavirus jab at a vaccination centre inside the Blackburn Cathedral

More than 4million Britons have now had their first dose ¿ but rates vary across the country

More than 4million Britons have now had their first dose ¿ but rates vary across the country

More than 4million Britons have now had their first dose — but rates vary across the country 

SHE’S 91, BUT MY MUM HAS HEARD NOTHING

June Rollings, 91, from Peterborough, fears she has been forgotten in the jab rollout

June Rollings, 91, from Peterborough, fears she has been forgotten in the jab rollout

June Rollings, 91, from Peterborough, fears she has been forgotten in the jab rollout

June Rollings, 91, is beginning to fear she has been forgotten about after hearing nothing about when she will be vaccinated.

The former shoe shop worker, from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, has friends across the country who have had their jabs yet her GP practice appears to have no supplies.

Her daughter, Denise Burke, 64, is now frustrated to hear that people in their 70s will start being vaccinated this week. Mrs Burke said: ‘I’m a participant in the Novavax trials which I volunteered for because I wanted to do my part in helping to get our most vulnerable vaccinated.

‘It now feels very ironic that it’s my mother who has been left without a vaccine.

‘I’ve looked at the vaccination rates in Peterborough and they are embarrassingly low. My mum is becoming quite anxious and the worst of it is that I can’t explain to her what’s going on because I don’t know myself.’

NHS England figures released today show London has vaccinated the lowest number of priority residents – over-80s, vulnerable, care home residents and NHS workers – since the scheme was launched seven weeks ago.

It trails at the bottom of the table with the East of England, where almost 394,000 residents have been given jabs.

There’s a difference of almost 325,000 jabs between the capital’s total and the area that has managed to vaccinate the most Britons – the East Midlands.

The rerouting of supplies is expected to see more bound for London and the East of England – to shore up their flagging programmes. 

Speaking last week, Mr Khan said: ‘I am hugely concerned that Londoners have received only a tenth of the vaccines that have been given across the country.

‘The situation in London is critical, with rates of the virus extremely high, which is why it’s so important that vulnerable Londoners are given access to the vaccine as soon as possible.’ 

Dr Hart urged over-80s still waiting to be invited for a vaccination appointment to get in touch with their surgeries to ensure they hadn’t been missed.

‘I think now if people are over 80 it’s probably reasonable to sort of let us know that you have been missed,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘Because we might not of had your mobile phone number or we might not of been able to get hold of you by text.

‘But of course we don’t want to be totally swamped by people in younger age groups ringing up to say when am I going to (get my vaccine).’

Only 26 per cent of all over-75s owned a mobile phone in 2018, according to a survey carried out by Ofcom.

And separate data from Statista found only 40 per cent of over-65s used a mobile phone to browse the internet in 2019.

Caroline Abrahams, the director of charity Age UK, told MailOnline practices were getting in touch with the over-80s through several different routes.

‘If you’ve given your practice a mobile phone number then it’s a good idea to watch out for a text message, as it may well be the quickest way to find out that your turn has come,’ she said.

‘But GPs and local services will also be sending letters and contacting people by phone. 

‘Many older people will now have received a letter they can use to book in to a large vaccination centre as well if they prefer.

‘A lot of clinics are being set up at short notice as the programme is moving at pace, but if you miss the message or can’t make it this won’t mean you’ve missed the chance for a jab. 

Joan Willett, a care home resident in Hastings, receives her vaccination today

Joan Willett, a care home resident in Hastings, receives her vaccination today

Joan Willett, a care home resident in Hastings, receives her vaccination today

‘Once you are eligible for a vaccine, you should be able to be booked in for a future slot. 

‘One way or another, we hope and expect all older people in the top priority groups to hear from the NHS in the coming weeks, if they haven’t done so already.’

Allyson Pollock, the director of the Newcastle University Centre for Excellence in Regulatory Science, told MailOnline the data suggested many over-80s do not use their mobile phones regularly.

Dozens of pensioners including a 98-year-old Second World War hospital radiographer are still yet to get an appointment for the vaccine, despite the scheme already being expanded to over-70s, the Daily Mail revealed today. 

Ruth Wide, 98, is one of those yet to hear from her GP practice, in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, about receiving the potentially life-saving injection.

Her son Marcus, 72, is worried she has been overlooked but has followed the advice not to contact the surgery directly. He said: ‘There is no way to check whether somebody tried to call but failed to get through.’

June Rollings, 91, is beginning to fear she has been forgotten about after hearing nothing about when she will be vaccinated.

The former shoe shop worker, from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, has friends across the country who have had their jabs yet her GP practice appears to have no supplies. 

Dozens of others have also contacted the newspaper to express their concern over not receiving an appointment.

ASDA's Covid vaccination centre is set to start delivering jabs this week. Pictured, a view of the boarding placed inside the site in the supermarket's George Clothes department in Cape Hill, Birmingham

ASDA's Covid vaccination centre is set to start delivering jabs this week. Pictured, a view of the boarding placed inside the site in the supermarket's George Clothes department in Cape Hill, Birmingham

ASDA’s Covid vaccination centre is set to start delivering jabs this week. Pictured, a view of the boarding placed inside the site in the supermarket’s George Clothes department in Cape Hill, Birmingham

Matt Hancock tonight revealed more than 4million Britons have now had a coronavirus vaccine, amid mounting claims that a 'postcode lottery' has left vulnerable people in certain areas unprotected

Matt Hancock tonight revealed more than 4million Britons have now had a coronavirus vaccine, amid mounting claims that a 'postcode lottery' has left vulnerable people in certain areas unprotected

Matt Hancock tonight revealed more than 4million Britons have now had a coronavirus vaccine, amid mounting claims that a ‘postcode lottery’ has left vulnerable people in certain areas unprotected

HEALTH SECRETARY MATT HANCOCK TO SELF-ISOLATE 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has gone into self-isolation after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS app, he revealed today.

The Health Secretary said he will be staying at home until Sunday after receiving the notification.

Mr Hancock had Covid last year, but even those who have been infected before must isolate.

In a video posted on Twitter from his home, Mr Hancock said: ‘Last night I was pinged by the NHS coronavirus app, so that means I’ll be self-isolating at home, not leaving the house at all until Sunday.

‘This self-isolation is perhaps the most important part of all the social distancing because I know from the app I’ve been in close contact with somebody who has tested positive and this is how we break the chains of transmission.

‘So you must follow these rules like I’m going to. I’ve got to work from home for the next six days, and together, by doing this, by following this, and all the other panoply of rules that we’ve had to put in place, we can get through this and beat this virus.’

Government ministers have repeatedly assured over-80s that they will be contacted for Covid-19 vaccination jabs. But there are mounting fears some may have been missed. 

Dr Zoe Norris, a GP from East Yorkshire, warned today it was taking a ‘huge’ amount of time to contact patients to book appointments, which was leaving surgeries with deliveries of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine worried they wouldn’t be able to fill all appointments.

‘What we have done is initially we are ringing our patients who are in the first couple of groups so you can imagine it takes a huge amount of time, you’re talking 1,000 patients at least for one batch of vaccine,’ she told BBC Breakfast.

‘So ringing those patients, making sure they know where to go, they have got people to bring them down if they are elderly and frail.’

The Health Secretary told a Downing Street press conference last night supplies of the vaccine would be redirected to areas lagging behind in the rollout.

‘We’re prioritising the supply of the vaccine into those parts of the country that need to complete the over-80s,’ he said.

He revealed more than 4million people in the UK have now received their first dose, including more than half of over-80s and care home residents. 

But Dr David Holwell, a GP in West Sussex, slammed the move as ‘disappointing’ for areas that had worked hard to vaccinate elderly Britons quickly. 

‘We were doing an average of about 2,000 vaccines a week, then last week we got 300 and this week we will get 800, so it’s disappointing,’ he told BBC Breakfast.

‘We just want to keep on vaccinating, we have got to a great point, we have certainly started to eat into the sub-80s patients. But we are limited by the vaccination supply.’

Despite receiving a first dose of the vaccine, it can still take up to three weeks for it to trigger immunity from the virus. 

Scientists have urged those who have already been vaccinated to follow all the restrictions because of the delay in immunity and the need to get a second dose. 

The Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said today there would be ‘some overlap’ between getting the last over-80s vaccinated and lower priority over-70s in some areas. 

He told LBC: ‘We’re very clear that areas should be getting through the majority of the first cohort before they move on to the second cohort, but there will be an overlap.

‘The reality is as you’re moving through these, as you start to bring the second cohort in, there will be a bit of an overlap.

‘So while they’re still finishing cohort one some people from the second cohort will be having their vaccines and being contacted.

‘That’s understandable because the other alternative is you get through cohort one and you pause before you can start getting cohort two in and that would be wrong.’

Some places have already vaccinated almost all their over-80s. Above is a patient receiving the vaccine at the Bournemouth International Centre yesterday

Some places have already vaccinated almost all their over-80s. Above is a patient receiving the vaccine at the Bournemouth International Centre yesterday

Some places have already vaccinated almost all their over-80s. Above is a patient receiving the vaccine at the Bournemouth International Centre yesterday

He added: ‘In order to keep things flowing and moving we will see some overlap, but areas should be getting through the majority of cohort one before they start moving to cohort two.’

The vaccine programme was called into question yesterday by fellow minister Therese Coffey, who said ‘something wasn’t quite right’ that younger patients were receiving jabs ahead of the more elderly.

She said she has been contacted by people complaining that over-70s appear to be invited ahead of some over-80s and even over-90s.

In a post on social media yesterday, she said: ‘Something is not quite working right yet, particularly in one part of the constituency, as I am hearing from people that 80-plus and 90-plus-year-olds have not been contacted while some 70-plus patients in the same GP practice were invited for vaccination.

‘I know it is both distressing and annoying when people hear that other cohorts of a lower priority are being vaccinated ahead of our oldest and most vulnerable.’

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