Hundreds of thousands of care home residents have been left in the lurch by the Government over the life-saving Covid-19 vaccines.
Dan Warburton www.mirror.co.uk
Politicians and care chiefs last night accused minsters of failing to keep promises after it emerged 80 per cent of the 15,000 care homes in England are not currently being considered for Pfizer/BioNTech inoculations.
Nearly 30,000 residents died in England directly or indirectly from coronavirus in the first wave, according to the latest research.
But the Sunday People can reveal that…
ONLY around 0.3 per cent of the total population given the jab so far are care home residents.
JUST SEVEN care home areas have received the first dose of the jab.
THE MUTANT strain of the virus could wreak havoc in care homes if, as scientists fear, it spreads faster.
The revelations come as the number of cases rose by 34,693, up 7,000 on last week, although deaths fell to 210. Another six million people have also gone into stricter lockdown.
Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Munira Wilson said: “Far from avoiding a wide scale repeat of the earlier tragedy in our care homes, ministers are failing to make homes a safe haven for the most vulnerable.
“People have had enough of the excuses. No ifs and no buts, the Government must prioritise delivering a vaccine to all homes immediately.”
And Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “With a new coronavirus variant spreading with speed we’re now in a race against time to roll out vaccination.
“Ministers have repeatedly been too slow to protect care home residents. They can’t make the same mistakes again. We need vaccination rolled out urgently to our most vulnerable.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has vowed to prioritise larger care homes which had between 50 and 70 beds because there were problems breaking down the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines into smaller batches.
Currently they come in 975 doses which following a trial can be broken into 75 pack doses to take into care homes.
It is understood around 2,900 homes in England which have 50-70 beds are in line for the jabs.
They represent a fifth of the 15,000 homes in England, home to around 400,000 residents in total.
The Department of Health and Social Care revealed that care home residents in seven areas in England have so far been given the coronavirus vaccine.
It suggests that they account for about 0.3 per cent of the 613,000 people who have been inoculated.
Officials insisted this was just a preliminary figure and hundreds more have been given the jab in recent weeks. However they have refused to give an updated breakdown of the number of vaccines handed out to care home residents and staff.
Care chiefs last night blasted Matt Hancock for “overpromising” to ensure care home residents would be prioritised for the vaccine, which has to be stored at minus 70degC.
Nadra Ahmed, chairman of the National Care Association, said: “Because of the composition of the vaccine and its transportation challenges we can see why the roll-out is going to be difficult.
“But it’s another case of the massive overpromise on something that just cannot be delivered. It’s constant.
“This whole rhetoric of ‘We’re going to get it in to care homes, we’re going to get this vaccine to the frontline’, certainly in social care is an overpromise.
“We understand why that is but they need to be more upfront about the barriers rather than just keep telling the world this is what they are doing.”
Earlier this month Matt Hancock promised in the Commons that “we’ll vaccinate in care homes by Christmas.”
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation put care home residents at the top of its priority list.
But regulatory concerns about splitting cases of the vaccine have been blamed for the delays.
On Christmas Eve the Government said 616,933 UK people have been given the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine between December 8 and December 20.
Granny Margaret Keenan, 90, was the first person to have it – but the jab took place at Coventry’s university hospital, not a care home.
The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is also being considered for approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, with a decision as early as next week.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Vaccines have been administered to care home residents, those aged 80 and over and health and social care staff, through over 500 vaccination sites.
“The vaccine roll-out in care homes in England began on Wednesday December 16, with hundreds of residents vaccinated across care homes in Slough, Aintree, Herne Bay, Thanet, Chalfont St Peter, Droitwich and Cheltenham, as well as the Chelsea Pensioners.
“We are working hard to vaccinate all care home residents and workers as quickly and safely as possible.”
A doctor with a history of allergies said his heart rate increased, blood pressure dropped, tongue went numb and he broke out in a cold sweat after taking the US-approved Moderna jab in Boston – the first known reaction of its kind with this vaccine.