UK opens another 65 Covid vaccine centres to speed up rollout

A mosque in Birmingham has started dishing out coronavirus vaccinations amid fears the uptake is too low in BAME groups.

Another 65 pharmacy-led sites will throw open their doors today to turbo-charge the rollout, as ministers race to meet their deadline of 14million jabs by mid-February.

And Britain’s first 24/7 vaccination hubs at hospitals in Birmingham and Nottinghamshire have also begun offering jabs as part of a pilot scheme.

It comes after a survey found 72 per cent of black Britons were ‘unlikely or very unlikely’ to get the jabs – compared to 82 per cent of all Britons saying they would attend appointments for the vaccine.

Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Eastern European groups also said they were unwilling to take the Covid jab, while women, younger people and those with lower levels of education were also more hesitant than others. 

The Government’s top scientists blamed the disparity on ‘structural and institutional racism and discrimination’.

Hopes were raised yesterday that Britain’s vaccination scheme was back on track after official figures showed almost 350,000 jabs were completed on Tuesday.

Ministers need to get through 350,000 a day to vaccinate all the most vulnerable by their deadline of mid-February. 

A mosque in Birmingham has today begun offering coronavirus vaccinations, amid fears take up is too low among BAME groups

A mosque in Birmingham has today begun offering coronavirus vaccinations, amid fears take up is too low among BAME groups

A cinema in Aylesbury has also started handing out jabs to the most vulnerable, as Britain races to meet its target of 14million first doses by mid-February

A cinema in Aylesbury has also started handing out jabs to the most vulnerable, as Britain races to meet its target of 14million first doses by mid-February 

Pharmacists pictured at the Al Abbas mosque in Birmingham, which is being used as a vaccination hub to turbo charge the rollout

Pharmacists pictured at the Al Abbas mosque in Birmingham, which is being used as a vaccination hub to turbo charge the rollout

Sheila Evans receives an infection of the coronavirus vaccine at the mosque today

Sheila Evans receives an infection of the coronavirus vaccine at the mosque today

Clive Evans is also pictured receiving his first dose of the vaccine at the mosque

Clive Evans is also pictured receiving his first dose of the vaccine at the mosque

Members of the public sit on socially distanced chairs in the waiting area before getting their jabs. The Government is aiming to vaccinate all the most vulnerable groups by mid-February

Members of the public sit on socially distanced chairs in the waiting area before getting their jabs. The Government is aiming to vaccinate all the most vulnerable groups by mid-February

GOVERNMENT ONLY NEEDS TO OFFER 13.9MILLION PEOPLE THE VACCINE TO HIT ITS TARGET BY MID-FEBRUARY 

Ministers are facing questions over the vaccination target today as they could claim success with far fewer than 13.9million people given jabs.

Boris Johnson has set the target of inoculating the four highest priority groups by February 15, warning that it will be ‘very hard’.

But although the PM and other ministers have suggested it will mean administering 13.9million doses, in fact that is how many people will be ‘offered’ jabs.

Government sources admit not everyone will take up the invitation, with polls indicating that a fifth of the population might refuse.

It raises the prospect that the target could be technically hit well before 13.9million doses have been administered – although it is still possible that number of jabs will be achieved by mid-February.

However, MPs warned that ‘under-delivering’ and then claiming to have achieved the goal ‘won’t wash’.

The vaccine rollout appeared to get back on track yesterday after an alarming slowdown, with figures showing 346,000 jabs were given in the past 24 hours.

Mr Johnson insisted the target was still on schedule, but warned ‘constraints on supply’ were making the situation harder.

Matt Hancock said today that five million doses have now been given.

In order to administer 13.9million first doses by February 15, the Government must average more than 350,000 doses a day from now on.

But that the goal could be achieved with more like 300,000 jabs a if takeup is 75-80 per cent.

Government insiders told MailOnline the vaccinations are not mandatory and ‘no-one expects to get 100 per cent in every category’.

‘Some people will refuse to have a jab,’ they said. ‘We are trying all the time to encourage people to take up the offer.’

Announcing the inclusion of the Al Abbas mosque in the roll out today, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons they were ‘opening new sites all the time’.

‘Today, a cinema in Aylesbury, a mosque in Birmingham and a cricket club in Manchester have all come on board as part of 65 pharmacy-led sites across England that are joining our vaccination programme this week,’ he said.

‘This ongoing expansion will help us to protect even more of the most vulnerable even more quickly.’

He added that from NHS England would also publish vaccination figures by NHS STP areas today, which are divisions similar to the borders of local authorities.

The numbers are expected to reveal Britain’s vaccines ‘postcode lottery’, with some areas having 100 per cent of all their over-80s vaccinated while others -such as Sandwich in Kent – are still waiting for one resident to get their jab. 

‘Also from today, we will publish more localised granular data broken down by NHS STP area as well as by region so the public has the best possible information about all this work,’ he said.

The scheme’s expansion comes barely a week after six pharmacies – including ones run by Boots and Superdrug – were called up to assist the programme. 

Chemists have held ministers feet to the fire over the initial failure to include them in the rollout, saying they were an ‘invisible army’ of ready-to-go vaccinators.

The approval of the Oxford vaccine – which can be stored in a household fridge like the flu vaccine – meant they could dish out ‘thousands of jabs a day’ to ramp up the national effort, they said. 

Reacting to the statement, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) said it welcomed the opening of the sites run by pharmacies including two of its members, and called on the NHS not to delay using more of them. 

Malcolm Harrison, the chief executive, said: ‘We welcome the addition of new community pharmacy sites to the Covid vaccine programme. However, the sites that are involved so far are the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of how the community pharmacy network in England could be mobilised to protect their local communities against Covid.

‘We are urging the NHS to fully use the existing network of community pharmacies as part of the vaccine programme.

‘The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine requires similar storage and administration to the annual flu vaccines which community pharmacies have a track record of providing safely and at scale. 

‘We are confident that they could deliver more than 15 million jabs with this vaccine by the end of June.

‘Using the established network of pharmacies would bring the vaccine into local communities, meaning older people and those in at-risk groups can be vaccinated much closer to home.

‘We have shared a model with the NHS that will allow them to make use of pharmacies across the country to vaccinate the population and reach the target of 13.9 million vaccinations by mid-February. 

‘We very much hope that this model will be ready to be deployed as further supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are available. However, time is not on our side and we therefore need decisions to be made soon about how this could work.’

A man pictured at the mosque where they are rolling out coronavirus vaccines

A man pictured at the mosque where they are rolling out coronavirus vaccines

Members of the public pictured in the waiting area before receiving their doses of the coronavirus vaccine at the mosque

Members of the public pictured in the waiting area before receiving their doses of the coronavirus vaccine at the mosque