Tory MPs have accused Matt Hancock of already downplaying the chances of Boris Johnson reaching his ambitious coronavirus vaccine target that will see over 13million Brits jabbed by mid-February.
The radical blitz means all those at highest risk – the over 65s and younger adults with serious health conditions – will be protected against the bug.
The Health Secretary branded the goal as the “best case scenario” in a stark warning to backbench Tories, Mail Online reports.
The call was branded “Hancock’s half hour” as one MP said: “He emphasised that the prospect of the vulnerable being vaccinated by mid-February was a best-case scenario.
“It was heavily caveated. He set out plenty of reasons why it might not happen by then.
“He left himself plenty of wriggle room. It was very much an aspiration and there were no guarantees. I fear that they have not got the vaccine in sufficient quantities,” they said.
Mr Hancock reportedly told the MP that two million doses of the Oxford vaccine would arrive in the coming days ahead of being rolled out for next week.
“They should have been stockpiling. The rollout needs to happen as fast as possible. It’s the only hope we have,” the MP said.
A Department for Health source said: “As the Health Secretary said on the call, our goal is to have offered priority groups one to four their first dose by the middle of February.”
The source said the goal was “ambitious” but “achievable”.
The Government has promised to deliver two million vaccines a week to lift tight new restrictions on Brits as urgently as possible.
As the country goes into a strict March-style lockdown, the PM revealed that 1.3m have already had a jab, including a quarter of all those over 80.
It is being reported that high street pharmacies have offered to give a million Covid jabs a week but they have been shunned by ministers.
This is despite Mr Johnson’s pledge to use “every second” to put an “invisible shield” around the nations most vulnerable.
Ministers have been urged to deploy an army of trained vaccinators at pharmacies to help deliver the jabs rather than relying on GPs, nurses and retired volunteers, the Telegraph reports.
And Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee – which represents high street pharmacies during talks with the Government – has demanded answers over why the NHS is “scrabbling around” for vaccinators despite the offers of support.
Mr Dukes told the paper around 11,400 pharmacies across the country already administer flu jabs every year.
And the stores have the capability to vaccinate about 1.3m Brits each week, he said.
In a stark warning, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned the vaccine timetable was “realistic but not easy”, and that the NHS would have to use multiple channels to get it out.
Public Health England (PHE) officials won’t work one day a week, according to leaked documents.
New guidance issued to NHS Trusts warn the jabs won’t be issued on Sundays or after agreed ‘cut-off points’ every lunchtime – even if supplies run low.
However, tonight Michael Brodie, interim chief executive of PHE, told HOAR: “We run a seven-day-a-week service and have fulfilled 100 per cent of orders from the NHS on time and in full – with routine next-day deliveries six days a week as agreed with the NHS and the capability to send orders on Sundays if required.
“We are working around the clock to distribute millions of doses all over the UK and can deliver as much available vaccine as the NHS needs.”
The private sector has mobilised to support the NHS with the vaccination programme.
Hundreds of Best Western hotels could be turned into ‘cottage hospitals’ to ease the strain.
Plans sent to the Cabinet Office this week reveal the sites would handle everything from pre-surgery assessments to IV treatments, such as dialysis, as well as MRI and CTI scans and post-Covid recovery support.
Pub and bar companies including Young’s and Marstons, and café-bar chain Loungers say they’ll offer their sites as jab centres, while Boots will initially open up three vaccine site in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester.
Professor Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance revealed that one in fifty people now have the disease – more than one million Brits.
Cases have soared by 70 per cent in just one week – and are now up by 60,916 today alone.
In England alone, some 27,000 people are in hospital with the virus, 40 per cent more than during the first peak in April.
It came as:
- England entered another lockdown – with schools shut and people told to stay at home
- Brits started panic buying yet again with shelves stripped bare
- International travellers are set to be told to have a negative coronavirus test to get into the UK as Britain toughens up its borders
- Experts said even this stricter lockdown might not be enough to curb the spread of the new strain
- Hospitals continued to get busier as the NHS was just weeks from being overwhelmed
- One in every 50 Brits now has coronavirus as a rampant mutated strain takes hold across the UK
- A-Level and GCSE exams this summer have been cancelled