England’s Covid booster jab divide: Just a FIFTH of over-50s in inner-city areas have already had a top-up vaccine… but rates are almost 90% in other parts of the country, data shows as NHS opens its booking system early to speed up roll-out

  • EXCLUSIVE: Just 21 per cent of over-50s in Sparkhill North, Birmingham, have received a Covid booster jab 
  • Some areas of England have already dished out third doses to 90 per cent of the most vulnerable adults 
  • The Covid booster programme is set to be opened up to double-jabbed over-40s in England from tomorrow

England’s Covid booster vaccine divide was laid bare today, with just over a fifth of over-50s having had their top-up jab in parts of the country.

MailOnline analysis shows some areas have already dished out third doses to 90 per cent of the most vulnerable adults, who were originally prioritised in the rollout. 

The booster programme is set to be opened up to over-40s who had their second dose three months ago from tomorrow morning, with No10 targeting Christmas shoppers with ‘booster buses’ to help speed up uptake. 

It has been accused of being sluggish, especially in the face of the oncoming wave of infections fuelled by the supermutant Omicron variant. Ministers have consistently said boosters are key to warding off the threat of the wave.

NHS England’s most up-to-date vaccination statistics show thousands of neighbourhoods dotted across the country have already given third doses to the majority of adults.

But dozens of inner-city areas are massively lagging behind in the roll-out, according to this website’s analysis of the figures. 

Just 21 per cent of over-50s in Sparkhill North, a suburb in Birmingham, had received a third jab by November 28.  Thirteen other areas scattered between Birmingham, Nottingham, Essex and Bradford also fall below the 25 per cent mark. 

Experts slammed the unequal rollout, arguing it meant areas in the country where uptake is low are more vulnerable to the impending wave.

Professor David Livermore, a medical microbiologist at the University of East Anglia (UEA), told MailOnline: ‘Clearly these data reveal considerable variation in the efficiency of booster roll out. The NHS should reboot delivery of the programme in lagging areas.’ 

England’s Covid booster vaccine divide was laid bare today, with just over a fifth of over-50s having had their top-up jab in parts of the country. Graph shows: The proportion of people who have had a third dose in local authorities across the country

Just 21 per cent of over-50s in Sparkhill North, a suburb in Birmingham, had received a third jab by November 28. Thirteen other areas scattered between Birmingham, Nottingham, Essex and Bradford also fall below the 25 per cent mark

No10 announced last week that it plans to ramp up the booster programme to 500,000 jabs per day and offer a third dose to all 53million British adults by the end of January to shield against the incoming wave. But the scheme already appears to be stalling with less than 330,000 delivered across Britain yesterday and just 380,000 administered each day on average. At the current rate, all eligible adults will not be boosted until February 10 

Graph shows: The proportion of people aged 12 and over who have had a first Covid vaccine dose in local authorities across England and Scotland

Graph shows: The ten best and worst performing neighbourhoods in England for uptake of the first Covid vaccine dose

Graph shows: The proportion of people aged 12 and over who have had a second Covid vaccine dose in local authorities across England and Scotland

Graph shows: The ten best and worst performing neighbourhoods in England for uptake of the second Covid vaccine dose

The grandmother who became the first person to become vaccinated in Britain a year ago today has urged people to come forward for a vaccine as the Government urges people to get their booster doses.

Margaret Keenan, who a year ago became the first person in the world to have a Covid jab, recently received her Covid booster and flu jabs and encouraged others too.

The 91-year-old said: ‘The best Christmas present I could have is being in good health and having had the jab and feeling free from this horrible virus.’ 

Mrs Keenan — known as Maggie — spoke at University Hospital Coventry where she received her first vaccine dose on December 8 last year at the start of the mass vaccine rollout.

Describing that moment, Mrs Keenan — a mother-of-two and grandmother-of-four from Coventry in the West Midlands — said: ‘It felt great, honestly, I could not believe that things went so well, afterwards.

‘At the time I wasn’t feeling good but once I got that jab and things started to be better, so I had a wonderful year — thanks to the NHS.’

Speaking about people who have not yet had any jab, she said: ‘It’s amazing how many people don’t want it.

‘I don’t know why because they should have it… everybody should have the jab.

‘I keep saying this over and over again.’

MailOnline’s analysis shows two other areas had uptake of more than 85 per cent, with Yately East in Hampshire having the second highest proportion fully protected (85.5 per cent), followed by Bushey Heath in Hertfordshire (85.3 per cent).

They were followed by Fleet South and Pondtail in Hampshire (84.4 per cent), South Knutsford and Bexton in Cheshire (83.6 per cent) and Frimley Green in Surrey (83.4 per cent).

In comparison, Hyson Green in Nottingham had the next lowest booster uptake among over-50s in the country after Sparkill, with just 21.1 per cent of those in the age group come forward for a third jab. 

It was followed by Sparbrook South (21.9 per cent) and Small Health Park (22.9 per cent) — both in Birmingham — and Hockley and Jewellery Quarter in Essex (23.2 per cent). 

The data uses Office for National Statistics (ONS) population estimates from 2020, which is based on population census from 2011 so is subject to a degree of uncertainty. Data for first and second doses in particular overestimates the number of under-50s living in particular neighbourhoods because university students may be registered at old addresses.

James Lawson, fellow at the Adam Smith Institute thinktank, told MailOnline: ‘It is disappointing once again to see that the vaccine campaign is lacking pace, with huge regional disparities in booster shots for the vulnerable.

‘There is an over 60 point gap between the most vaccinated and least vaccinated areas. The problem is particularly acute in Birmingham and Nottingham.

‘It’s shameful the vaccine campaign has languished given the Government now looks set to rush back to infringements on our most precious liberties — restrictions its own ministers can’t even comply with, undermining the basic fabric of the rule of law.

‘The vaccines reduce hospitalisations and deaths by around 90 per cent, and there are new treatments, significantly reducing the risk the virus poses and changing the cost benefit analysis of restrictions.

‘Instead of pursuing a callous and costly plan B, the government should be using every lever available to maintain confidence around Plan A. We must learn to live with Covid and effective vaccinations for the vulnerable provide the best protection, not knee-jerk restrictions.’

No10 announced last week that it plans to ramp up the booster programme to 500,000 jabs per day and offer a third dose to all over-18s by the end of January to shield against the incoming wave. 

Mr Johnson last week said vaccination centres will be ‘popping up like Christmas trees’ and Health Secretary Sajid Javid pledged to put the booster programme ‘on steroids’ in order to fight off the threat of Omicron.

But ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson today admitted that another nationwide shutdown could be on the cards to tackle the variant as he warned the strain will be dominant before Christmas.

Downing Street said today that ‘no decisions have been made’ on Plan B. But there is growing pressure after the total number of British Omicron cases rose to 437 yesterday, with the highly evolved variant now in every country in the UK and almost every region of England. 

The booster scheme already appears to be stalling with fewer than 330,000 delivered across Britain yesterday and just 380,000 administered each day on average. At the current rate, all eligible adults will not be boosted until February 10.

Fewer booster jabs were given in England this weekend than before Mr Johnson and Mr Javid made their promise to ramp up the programme. 

Labour’s shadow health secretary West Streeting slammed No10 for being ‘stuck in first gear’ with the rollout. 

Professor Neil Ferguson warns a full lockdown might be needed to stop Omicron overwhelming NHS 

‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson today admitted that another nationwide shutdown could be on the cards to tackle Omicron as he warned the super variant will be dominant before Christmas.

The Government scientist, whose modelling bounced No10 into the original lockdown last spring, said the return of stay-at-home orders ‘certainly might be possible’ if the mutant strain threatens to overwhelm the NHS.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘There is a rationale, just epidemiologically, to try and slow this down, to buy us more time principally to get boosters into people’s arms because we do think people who are boosted will have the best level of protection possible, but also to buy us more time to really better characterise the threat.’

Asked outright if a lockdown could be reimposed, he said: ‘Clearly if the consensus is it’s highly likely that the NHS is overwhelmed then it will be for the Government to decide what to do about that but it’s a difficult situation to be in of course. It certainly might be possible at the current time.’

It is unclear how the British public would react to social restrictions over Christmas after fresh allegations surfaced this week that Boris Johnson held a rule-breaking lockdown party in Downing Street last December, when millions of Britons were unable to visit loved ones.

According to reports, No10 is already drawing up new plans for Britons to work from home and for offices to be closed in an attempt to avoid bringing in harsher Christmas curbs.

Mr Johnson and his chief scientists are said to have given a ‘sobering’ Omicron briefing to Cabinet yesterday in an effort to soften up ministers for tougher curbs.

He told MailOnline: ‘We want the Government to succeed, but the truth is they’ve been stuck in first gear on the booster roll-out.

‘Let’s hope they’ve finally got a grip and that the latest promises come to fruition. I’m encouraging everyone to get the jab as soon they’re eligible.’

Matthew Lesh, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute thinktank, also criticised No10’s sluggish booster campaign. 

He said: ‘The UK’s inept health bureaucracy was too slow to approve and provide boosters, despite early evidence of waning immunity, and we are now suffering the consequences.

‘The current booster rate is far too slow to offer vaccinations to all over-18s by the end of January. The promised ramp up has not appeared. 

‘But we know it’s possible to go much faster — with over 600,000 average daily doses achieved earlier this year.’

Mr Lesh called on the Government to ‘look beyond’ the NHS and involve the private sector in delivering as many boosters as possible.

Britons aged 40 and over who had their second jab three months ago are able to book their booster shot from today.

The national booking system has been updated to allow eligible people aged over 40 or in a high-risk group in England to book from today. People will be able to book a month in advance, two months after their second dose.

Younger people will be invited to book their booster in the coming weeks, as officials increase eligibility in five-year age bands. 

The NHS will send Covid ‘booster buses’ to retail parks to offer jabs to Christmas shoppers under plans to accelerate the programme. Health chiefs hope the mobile vaccine clinics will help them hit their target of vaccinating 3.5million a week. 

The Health Service will make it as easy as possible to get the jab from the likes of pharmacies, churches or shopping centres.

A health source said: ‘We appreciate people are busy in the run-up to Christmas but it is vitally important they get their booster vaccine as soon as they are eligible for it. 

‘We will be offering vaccines in thousands of locations and want to make it as easy to get a jab as it is to buy a turkey or Christmas present.’

The NHS is launching a recruitment drive, asking for paid staff and volunteers join the vaccination programme.

Some 10,000 new roles are being advertised, including vaccinators, admin staff and healthcare support workers.

The NHS is also working with the Royal Voluntary Service and St John, to drum up the support of more than 42,000 volunteers.

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