Peston challenges Boris Johnson’s vaccine rollout and warns PM ‘only has himself to blame’

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The UK is one of the world leaders in the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, with more than four million people treated. The Government has set an ambitious target of carrying out 15 million jabs by February 15 and has rapidly expanded the net for who should get the vaccine. But, in the process some of the most vulnerable members of society are being left behind as the vaccine is made available to those lower down the priority list.

Over half of those aged over-80s and half of elderly care home residents have received the jab.

But, with many left on the waiting list, ministers have given the go-ahead to begin vaccinating those deemed less vulnerable to the virus – including the over-70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

The Prime Minister tasked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) with devising a priority list for the jab to enable the “prevention of COVID-19 mortality and the protection of health and social care staff and systems”.

Care home residents and staff were placed at the top of the list for the vaccine, followed by the over 80s and frontline health workers, then the over 75s, and in fourth were the over 70s and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

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Writing in his blog, ITVs political editor Robert Peston said: “The Prime Minister only has himself to blame for the public outcry over 70-year-olds being vaccinated when there are still many over 80 waiting even to be invited to be vaccinated.

“What I mean by this is that there was a perfectly good argument for vaccinating 70-to-80-year-olds before the more elderly, or at the same time.

“But Boris Johnson eliminated all debate about that when he ordered the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to organise the vaccination programme so that deaths from or with COVID-19 should be cut as rapidly as possible.”

He added: “If those priorities aren’t being met, it’s by definition a government failure.”

This afternoon, NHS England has confirmed 4,118,342 COVID-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between December 8 and January 18 – including first and second doses.

The data showed, 3,687,206 people have been administered their first dose and 431,136 people have been given their second dose.

The Government has defended the way the vaccine has been distributed.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis acknowledged “there will be an overlap” between the groups getting the vaccine.

He pointed out those groups lower down the list were being contacted early to avoid a “pause” in the vaccine.

Mr Lewis said: “We’re very clear that areas should be getting through the majority of the first cohort before they move on to the second cohort, but there will be an overlap.

“The reality is, as you’re moving through these, as you start to bring the second cohort in, there will be a bit of an overlap.

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“So, while they’re still finishing cohort one, some people from the second cohort will be having their vaccines and being contacted.

“That’s understandable because the other alternative is you get through cohort one and you pause before you can start getting cohort two in and that would be wrong.

“In order to keep things flowing and moving we will see some overlap, but areas should be getting through the majority of cohort one before they start moving to cohort two.”

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