One in four care home residents yet to receive Covid booster vaccine

·3 min read
Only 72 per cent of care home residents have been given a booster vaccine - AFP
Only 72 per cent of care home residents have been given a booster vaccine - AFP

More than one quarter of care home residents have not yet received a booster shot, despite government pledges that all would be offered a jab by the beginning of November.

Latest figures from NHS England show that just 72 per cent of care homes residents have been given a booster, even though they are among the most at risk.

Charities said they were concerned that younger age groups who were now eligible for the jab were taking priority over care homes.

Last month, the booster rollout was extended to the over-40s. This week, the Government announced that all over-18s would receive a third dose.

There are also concerns that a growing number of GPs have abandoned vaccination programmes to clear the treatment backlog caused by the coronavirus response.

At a press conference on November 15, Boris Johnson stated that 80 per cent of eligible older people in care homes had been given a booster. But charities said the latest data called that figure into question.

Gavin Terry, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We’re still haunted by the absolute devastation inflicted upon care home residents in 2020.

"Worrying new data showing that over a quarter of people in care homes are yet to have their booster jab is providing further cause for concern.

“Given the Prime Minister announced on November 15 that 80 per cent of eligible older people in care homes had received a booster, it’s clear that last month’s data did not provide an accurate picture of what was really happening.

"The promise to offer jabs to all people living in care homes by November 1 is also now long overdue. We’re left wondering whether the vaccination drive in care homes has ground to a halt to make way for lower risk groups before the Government has met its promise to the most vulnerable.”

Booster rollout in care homes has been 'much more patchy'

Care homes were disproportionately hit during the first and second waves of the pandemic, when more than 39,000 care home residents died with the virus between April 2020 and March 2021.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, has previously insisted that there is "plenty of capacity" and blamed older people for not booking appointments as quickly as they did at the beginning of the vaccine rollout.

But Nadra Ahmed, chairman of the National Care Association, said: “The booster rollout in care homes has been much more patchy than the first and second jabs. There doesn’t seem to be the same conviction.

“A lot of GPs are not on board anymore because they have other priorities, and that has been a problem for us.

“It was much more consistent when the GP surgeries were involved. We have pharmacies instead, and sometimes they don’t turn up on the agreed date or they don’t have supply of the vaccine.”

The British Medical Association also previously warned that changes to the GPs' vaccination contracts – which told practices they must continue with all usual work, as well as vaccines – had led to many opting out of the scheme.

Practice managers have told The Telegraph that up to 40 per cent of GPs in some areas have abandoned vaccinations, because they could not cope with the extra workload.

Earlier this week, the Government announced that GPs and pharmacists will be given bonuses to vaccinate in an effort to speed up the rollout.

Previously, they were paid £12.58 for every jab given. This has now increased to £15 per dose, with £20 for jabs given on Sundays and a £30 premium for visits to the housebound.

NHS England said that GPs and care home managers were working closely to vaccinate residents. However, it said some jabs may have been delayed by norovirus outbreaks. It also said some residents may have died since their jabs.

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