With restrictions lifting in England yesterday and cases surging, Boris Johnson was keen to encourage younger adults who have yet to get vaccinated to take up the offer.
“It is phenomenal that every adult in the country has now been offered a first dose”, the prime minister told reporters. But, he said, “there are still 35 per cent of 18-30 year olds – 3 million people – who are completely unvaccinated.”
And while rates are better among older adults, there are still nearly 700,000 over-50s who have yet to receive their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to FactCheck analysis of NHS England data up to 11 July. That’s about one in 30.
When it comes to those who have yet to get both jabs, the figure rises to 1.3 million, or one in 15. The latest scientific evidence indicates that having a second dose is particularly important when it comes to preventing hospitalisation and death.
The over-50s were among the first to be offered jabs when the rollout began, along with health and social care workers and people with underlying conditions, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI).
The JCVI’s top nine priority groups represent 99 per cent of people who died in the first wave.
On 13 April this year, the government met its target to offer everyone in these groups a first vaccine two days ahead of schedule, but uptake among some has been patchy.
Proportionately, the social care workforce has the lowest vaccine coverage of the nine groups according to our analysis, with 22 per cent of staff at providers that gave data yet to get their first dose.
The figure rises to 54 per cent of social care staff who are still to receive their second dose.
The government announced last month that people working in care homes will need to be fully vaccinated from October.
Gaps in the stats
As FactCheck reported last week, there are gaps in the figures on social care. In the latest dataset, 116 older adult care home providers have not given the NHS statistics on how many of their staff have been jabbed. Though, as this represents about 1 per cent of older adult care homes, it’s unlikely to shift our findings considerably.
We’ve not included one of the top nine groups in this analysis – frontline healthcare workers – as the NHS figures don’t allow us to separate out how many jabs have been given to those on the frontline, compared to those in the wider health service.
But we can see that the number of NHS staff to receive two doses (1,174,701) exceeds the estimated number of frontline healthcare workers (1,170,000). This might indicate that every single frontline worker is fully jabbed, though it’s also possible that some of these jabs have gone to non-frontline colleagues.
Finally, we should say that the figures in our analysis are based on a comparison between the number of people to receive each dose of the vaccine compared to the total population of people in that group. Following the NHS’ lead, that means we’ve used the Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2019 estimates for people aged over 50. But this leaves us in a slightly unusual situation with 75 to 79-year-olds. The ONS estimates that there were 1.94 million people in that group in England in 2019, but the NHS says it has jabbed 1.98 million – about 40,000 more than they thought existed.
It shows how imprecise the official estimates of the size of the UK population are.
As Professor Matt Keeling from Warwick University told reporters at the Science Media Centre last week: “Unfortunately, although we know in great detail the number of individuals that have received the vaccine, we don’t actually know about the numbers that haven’t. We don’t have terribly accurate estimates of the entire population size.”
After we published this article, the Department of Health and Social Care provided a statement:
“More than 82 million COVID-19 vaccines have already been administered, saving an estimated 37,000 lives and preventing 11.7 million infections in England so far.
“We have one of the highest COVID-19 vaccine uptake rates in the world and the latest ONS data shows that more than 9 in 10 (96%) adults reported positive sentiment towards the vaccine.
“We are working with the NHS and social care sector to do everything we can to encourage everyone who is eligible to come forward for their vaccines.
“Already around three quarters of care home workers have received both vaccine doses alongside more than nine in ten residents and we are bringing in a law meaning all people working in CQC registered care homes will need to be fully vaccinated to protect the most vulnerable people they care for.”