Q&A: So why HAS our world-beating jab programme hit the buffers?

What’s going wrong with the booster programme?

It’s too slow. It’s too slow. The UK was the world leader in approving and delivering Covid jabs. However, only half of the eight millions currently eligible have received a boost since September 16, when the program began.

Six months after their first jab, 30 million over-50s and people with underlying health issues will be eligible to receive a second dose. But at the current pace of 200,000 booster jabs a day – compared with 400,000 during the peak of the first drive – it will take until March to finish the job.

NHS England admitted it had sent out only 5.5 million invitations, and promised to despatch a further two million last week

NHS England admitted that it had sent only 5.5 Million invitations and promised to send another two million this week

Are the people in charge to be held accountable?

There’s been a change at the top. The departure of those credited with the first rollout’s success – Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Kate Bingham, who led the Vaccines Taskforce – means it’s now in the hands of Maggie Throup, described as having ‘all the verve of cotton wool’.

NHS England admitted that it had only sent out 5.5 million invitations and promised to send out another two million.

It’s telling that the Government has brought back Emily Lawson, who ran the initial jab drive.

Is the public becoming complacent about Covid risk?

Only partially. Many people don’t realize that protection decreases over time. This may explain why there isn’t much booster uptake.

The first vaccines were widely regarded as vital in saving lives and a way to get out of lockdown when they were released. Experts disagree, however, and believe that the benefits of a booster are less well-known.

Pharmacists in Manchester told the BBC they had capacity for ‘600 or 700’ jabs a day but only 100 takers. Surveys show that 82% of us would accept an extra shot if it was offered. Many of those who are eligible have not yet been invited for a jab.

Is the public confused about how to get the jab

People were told to wait for the NHS to invite them to the booster programme when it was announced.

Ministers last week reversed their position and said that anyone can book a jab online via 119 or online, even without an invitation. There was more confusion as the NHS booking website wasn’t updated at first and stated that only people with invitations could book a jab. Eligible people will now be able book their booster weeks in advance.

Why can’t GPs give out the jabs?

Innoculations were delivered by GPs 75% of the time in the initial rollout. Many practices have decided to opt out of the second rollout, citing patient backlogs and the need to administer flu vaccine. Doctors were also asked to continue routine care, which they weren’t first time.

Can’t it be given with the flu jab?

Yes. Studies show it’s safe and they’re licensed to be given together. But there are practical constraints, including patients having to be monitored for 15 minutes after the jab, which GPs don’t have the capacity to deal with.

What’s happened to my local vaccine centre?

Many church halls or ‘pop-up’ vaccine clinics have been closed in favour of pharmacies and larger out-of-town venues. Doctors believe that access is a factor in reducing uptake. There are also fewer volunteers. But, statistics show that the number of vaccine centers has increased from 1,543 in February up to 2,205.

Is online reservation possible?

Yes, there have been some issues. Some eligible people with invitations have been wrongly informed by the NHS booking website that they can’t yet book a jab. This has been corrected. Please call 119 if you have any questions.

The Government has pledged 100 million doses to Third World countries, but says this will not affect our booster programme

The Government has promised 100 million doses to Third World nations, but this will not impact our booster programme.

Are there shortages of booster vaccines?

No. No. New vaccines from Novavax and Valneva are also being ordered. Once approved, they will be available.

The Government has promised 100 million doses to Third World nations, but this will not impact our booster programme.

Is there a postcode lottery

Unfortunately, yes. Some areas have fewer vaccination clinics due to the fact that some GPs have opted-out. There is no data yet on which regions are performing best, but the Midlands has delivered over 800,000 jabs – 40 per cent more than in the South West and East of England. The uptake of vaccines will also be affected if there is a high level of hesitancy. Only 50-60% of people who are fully vaccinated live in London’s areas with large black and South Asian populations.