Fears of Covid vaccine lottery as some over-70s could get jabs before higher risk groups

SOME over-70s could get their Covid vaccine before those over 80 in parts of the country, the UK's Vaccines Minister has today suggested.

Nadhim Zahawi said that in areas where "the majority" of over-80s have had their first shot, the over-70s group will be invited for their jab.

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But with some areas rolling out vaccines at a faster pace, it could result in a "postcode lottery" for older and more vulnerable Brits.

One Tory MP told Politico that areas such as the North East are supposedly administering vaccines quicker than places such as London and Kent.

They questioned whether it could mean some younger and less-at-risk people will get their jabs before older and higher-risk people "purely based on the luck of their location".

It comes after the Government announced five million over-70s and "extremely vulnerable" will be invited to get their Covid jab from today.

Figures show 3.8 million people across the UK have had their first vaccine dose – including more than half of all those over the age of 80.


Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said "this is the time" to start to move down the priority groups.

He told Sky News today, "we can't wait until we've vaccinated everybody," before moving down priority groups."

In an interview with the PA news agency, he said it was "quite right" that the most vulnerable are initially targeted for the vaccination programme.

"The strategy for who we vaccinate has been set again by an independent body, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation," he said.

"And they, quite rightly, have targeted the first vaccines at those members of society who are most susceptible to illness from this virus.

"So that's the over-80s, residents of care homes, and of course this week now to the over-70s.

"So it's quite right that we target vaccine initially at those most vulnerable, but as more vaccine becomes available, it will be rolled out to more people in the population."

The Government said it would remain the priority to vaccinate those in the first two groups, but that sites which have enough supply and capacity to vaccinate more people will be allowed to offer jabs to the next two cohorts.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to offer vaccinations to the first four priority groups by the middle of next month.

Yet there remains concerns that for some corners of the UK – particularly rural areas – the roll out "is not quite working right".

Thérèse Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said in one part of her constituency the over 70s have been invited for vaccination before those over 80.

She said: "Our GP practices are grouped into at least four different Primary Care Networks, each of which seem to be delivering the vaccinations in a different way.

"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.

"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."


Figures published by the Telegraph last week showed a regional disparity in the number of vaccinations being carried out across England.

They found that the Midlands has administered 387,647 doses of the jab, with around 50 per cent – 140, 147 – given to over-80s.

The region became the first in England to rollout the vaccine when Margaret Keenan received the Pfizer vaccine last month. 

Meanwhile, the North-East and Yorkshire runs a close second, with 46 per cent of over-80s receiving the jab. 

By contrast, London has vaccinated just 30.6 per cent of this age group so far, which is narrowly ahead of the East of England on 29.2 per cent. 

Measuring vaccinations as a percentage of the total regional population, just 2.23 per cent of Londoners have received their first dose – the lowest rate in England. The North-East and Yorkshire has vaccinated 4.31 per cent of people across all age groups. 


Mr Zahawi has since defended the decision to offer jabs to the over-70s and clinically vulnerable.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the over-80s "need not worry" if they hadn't yet been invited for a jab yet.

He said as it was only areas where the majority of the over-80s had been vaccinated that people aged 70 and over were being invited for jabs.

And while the vaccine supply remained "lumpy", he said he was "confident" of meeting the government's target to vaccinate all 15 million people in the top four priority groups by mid-February.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Now that more than half of all over-80s have had their jab, we can begin vaccinating the next most vulnerable groups.

Where an area has already reached the vast majority of groups 1-2, they can now start opening up the programme to groups 3-4

"Where an area has already reached the vast majority of groups 1-2, they can now start opening up the programme to groups 3-4.

"We are working day and night to make sure everyone who is 70 and over, our health and social care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable are offered the vaccine by the middle of February and our NHS heroes are making huge strides in making this happen.

"This measure does not mean our focus on getting care homes, healthcare staff and those aged 80 and over vaccinated is wavering – it will remain our utmost priority over the coming weeks to reach the rest of these groups."

Meanwhile, ten further mass vaccination centres are opening in England from today, including Blackburn Cathedral, St Helens rugby ground, Norwich Food Court and a park-and-ride outside York.

NHS England said they will join the seven existing mass vaccination sites across the country, alongside around 1,000 GP-led surgeries and more than 250 hospitals already providing jabs.

It comes amid fears the health service could hit the limit of its critical care beds this week as hospital admissions due to Covid-19 continue to rise.

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