Tony Blair calls for government to issue 500k Covid booster jabs a day

21 October 2021, 16:19 | Updated: 21 October 2021, 16:22

Tony Blair has said the government should aim to issue 500,000 coronavirus vaccines per day
Tony Blair has said the government should aim to issue 500,000 coronavirus vaccines per day. Picture: Getty

By James Morris

Tony Blair has said the government needs to set a target of delivering 500,000 booster jabs a day, amid fears a fresh coronavirus wave could overwhelm the NHS.

With cases rising, the former prime minister said ministers need to act "rapidly and decisively" to avoid the need for another lockdown as winter approaches.

When Mr Blair’s demands were put to government minister Ed Argar on LBC today, he refused to commit to a daily number, only saying “we stand ready” to increase the number of jabs.

Just over four million booster doses are estimated to have been delivered in England, the equivalent of one in 10 of the double-jabbed population.

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A report by Mr Blair’s think tank, the Tony Blair Institute, said: “If the booster rollout continues at its current average rate of 165,000 boosters administered each day, the programme will not be able to vaccinate the 27 million eligible people until March 2022.

“However, if the number of people receiving booster jabs doubles to 300,000 per day, this end date could be brought forward to early January 2022.

“And if we aim for a more ambitious target of 500,000 doses per day, a booster could be offered to every eligible adult before Christmas.”

The report added ministers should reactivate the vaccine infrastructure set up earlier in the year and start using the AstraZeneca vaccine for boosters.

Read more: Health Minister: 'Go ahead' and book Christmas parties but come forward for booster jab

Asked by LBC’s Nick Ferrari if the government is “up for the challenge” of half a million doses a day, health minister Mr Argar avoided the question.

He said: “I think what he is saying is we need to up the rate of jabs going into arms and that’s what we stand ready and able to do. The key thing is for people to come forward.

“We’ve done about four million booster jabs. There’s around two million more invitations that have gone out… and we will continue to ramp that up. The capacity is there and the supply is there."

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Last night, health secretary Sajid Javid urged the public to play its part, saying further restrictions may be needed if people do not take care and get all their Covid jabs and boosters.

Booster doses can only be offered to people who are at least six months on from receiving their second dose of coronavirus vaccine.

If eligible, people who can receive a booster dose include all adults aged 50 and over; frontline health and social care workers; and those living in residential care homes for older adults.

Read more: Javid's jabs plea: Health Sec says 'get your booster' as he rules out Covid Plan B

They are also being made available to people aged 16 to 49 with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe Covid, and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.

The booster campaign began in England on 16 September, and is being delivered through existing vaccination sites including pharmacies, hospital hubs, GP practices and vaccine centres.

It is intended to provide extra protection against hospital admission or death from Covid during the coming winter, and as such is being targeted at people who are more at risk from serious disease and who were jabbed during the first phase of the vaccine rollout.