Vaccine minister tells LBC he's 'confident' 13m jabs will be given by mid-February

6 January 2021, 09:18 | Updated: 6 January 2021, 09:35

Nadhim Zahawi told LBC he thinks the vaccine target can be met
Nadhim Zahawi told LBC he thinks the vaccine target can be met. Picture: LBC
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has told LBC he is "confident" the 13 million Covid jabs target will be reached by mid-February.

Speaking on Nick Ferrari's morning show, the minister in charge of the coronavirus vaccine rollout said the target is "challenging" but can be met, however it will mean two million people will need to be vaccinated each week.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he wants all those in the "top four priority groups" to have been administered their first doses by the middle of next month - more than 13 million people.

More than one million have already received their initial shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech drug, and with the upcoming rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca the PM said "the pace of vaccination is accelerating".

Mr Zahawi told LBC that although the target will be difficult, the NHS in all four UK nations has "a very clear delivery plan".

"It is a big target, no doubt, but from Monday to Monday, so 4 January to 11 January, you're going to see a massive uplift in numbers again and then the week after that more so," he said.

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"The prime minister not only set us a big target but has, quite rightly, committed as of next week that we'll publish daily data so the nation and your listeners can see and judge our performance.

"The focus is very much on the four categories that we'll offer those vaccinations to, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), by mid-February and I'm confident that the NHS has got a really clear plan for that."

Mr Zahawi also confirmed to LBC that community pharmacies and independents will be used to deliver the vaccines.

However, he said the sites already set up to help the rollout need to be administering the maximum number of jabs for the target to be reached.

Following reports that Public Health England would not be working on Sundays to deliver jabs, the minister told Nick the agency would "absolutely" work seven days a week to ensure vaccine deployment goes ahead on time.

"They will work whatever days we need them. PHE will make sure that happens. Every single day, every vaccine delivery that we request will happen," he said.

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At the top of the government's priority list for inoculations are people who live and work in care homes, followed by the over-80s and frontline health and social care workers, including NHS staff.

Those over the age of 75 are next, with the fourth group consisting of the over-70s and anyone classed as extremely vulnerable, including organ transplant recipients and cancer patients.

In his address to the nation, Mr Johnson said: "If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus.

"And of course that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we've endured for so long."

He added: "So far we in the UK have vaccinated more people than in the rest of Europe combined."

From Monday, there will be daily updates on the number of people who have been vaccinated.

The PM also said there are already 595 GP-led sites providing the drugs, with a further 180 coming on stream later this week.

There are 107 hospital sites carrying out vaccinations, with an additional 100 joining the programme this week.

Of the 1.3 million people to have received their jabs so far, 650,000 of those are aged 80 or above - 23 per cent of the over-80s in England.

Brian Pinker, 82, was the first person in the UK outside of trials to receive the new Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine at Oxford University Hospital.

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