A Cabinet minister has acknowledged issues in the vaccination rollout in her constituency, saying some individuals are receiving the “distressing and annoying” information that lower priority individuals are to receive jabs first.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said she has been contacted with concerns in the Suffolk Coastal area that some over-80s, and even over-90s, have not been invited for the coronavirus vaccination while younger citizens have been.
Millions of over-70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable were being contacted for jabs from Monday, but the Government said this will only happen when the majority of individuals in their areas in higher priority groups, as determined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), have received jabs.
Ms Coffey said on Monday that her constituency has mostly received the Pfizer vaccine so far, which she said is “more challenging to distribute especially in a rural area”, with its need for ultra-cold storage.
“Something is not quite working right yet though, particularly in one part of the constituency, as I am hearing from people in part of the area that 80+ and 90+ year olds have not been contacted while some 70+ patients in the same GP practice were invited for vaccination,” she wrote on Facebook.
“I know it is both distressing and annoying when people hear that other cohorts of a lower priority (according to the JCVI) are being vaccinated ahead of our oldest and most vulnerable. On that point, every care home resident will be vaccinated by next Sunday.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi suggested that over-70s would not be invited for jabs until more than 90% of the over-80s in their areas are vaccinated.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Anyone who is over 80 watching us this morning should not worry because we are making sure that those areas have vaccinated the majority of their over-80s.
“And in some areas they’ve got to 90% of their over-80s, that’s where the letters are going out for the over-70s to invite them for their vaccinations.
“I don’t want them (over-80s) to worry, they will absolutely get that invitation.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “With millions already vaccinated, we are now able to begin rolling out the vaccines to people aged 70 and over and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, in order to meet our commitment to offer vaccinations to the first four priority groups by the middle of February.
“To ensure the vaccines are distributed consistently across the UK, guidance to local vaccination services is clear that vaccinations must be offered to each of the priority groups in the order set by the independent JCVI.
“Invitations can now be sent to the next two eligible groups provided there is capacity and supply is not affected for the top two cohorts, who remain our utmost priority over the coming weeks.”
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