Prime Minister hails "outstanding job" at vaccination effort during Batley visit

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The Prime Minister hailed Yorkshire as “leading the way” in the effort to vaccinate the population and moved to assuage anxieties about the region’s vaccine supply being limited because of doses being diverted to other parts of the country.

Some 1,343,817 people across Yorkshire and the North East have now had at least one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine according to figures released on February 1.

Speaking at a visit to a vaccination centre at the Al-Hikmah centre in Batley, Boris Johnson said: “Yorkshire is doing an outstanding job, better than many other parts of the country in vaccinating people. It’s really leading the way.”

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The Prime Minister dismissed concerns about vaccine supply to the region, despite confirmation last week that some of Yorkshire’s planned dosage over coming weeks would be rediverted to other areas of the country that had not vaccinated as many residents.

Boris Johnson during his visit to the vaccination centre at the Al-Hikmah centre in Batley (Getty Images)Boris Johnson during his visit to the vaccination centre at the Al-Hikmah centre in Batley (Getty Images)
Boris Johnson during his visit to the vaccination centre at the Al-Hikmah centre in Batley (Getty Images)

He said: “To the best of my knowledge, we’re keeping everything supplied as fast as we can across the country and we’re confident in the supplies that we have.”

But he expressed concern after figures showed that around one in five care home staff have not taken a vaccination when offered to them.

“Virtually” every care home resident and staff member in the UK has now been offered a vaccine, according to Downing Street, but Vic Rayner, the executive director of the National Care Forum (NCF), which represents not-for-profit providers, said just 27% of its member organisations had 70% or more of their staff vaccinated as of early last week, with access to doses the main issue.

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Of lack of uptake of vaccinations by some care home staff, Boris Johnson said: “It has been an issue, we are working fast to sort it out and seeing a big increase in uptake.”

And asked whether high vaccination rates in care homes means families may soon be reunited with their loved ones who have been unable to have visits, he said: “I want to residents in care home reunited with their families as soon and as safely as we can, there will be clinical decisions to be made about how to do that.

“We need to be cautious and certain that vaccinations are really working, we think they are, we have every reason to think there are.”

The Prime Minister refused to be drawn further on the exact timetable for re-opening up hospitality and non-essential shops, but said the government would present its road-map on February 22.

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He said: “We’ve got to be humble in the face of nature. Science is very, very powerful but so is nature.

“We’re going to succeed but I don’t want to give people absolute assurances that we’re going to be able to such and such a thing by such and such a date.

“We’ll know more in the next few weeks, we’ll start to see if the vaccines are working.

“On February 22 we will be setting out as much more of the roadmap as we can.

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"All those things we love, hospitality, sport, fun, all those things will return and we’ll be setting out when they’ll return and under what circumstances.”

And he indicated that the regionalised tier system may be scrapped when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

He said: “It may be a national approach might be better this time round.

“The disease is behaving much more nationally, the way the new variant has taken off across the country, it’s a pretty national phenomenon.”

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The visit to the Al-Hikmah centre, which is run by Batley's Indian Muslim Welfare Society, came as concern mounted about the lack of vaccine uptake in black and minority ethnic communites.

ONS statistics revealed over the weekend that 49% of 150 black or black British adults said they would be likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 85% of 13,240 white adults.

Eight per cent of Asian people questioned also said they were unlikely to take the vaccine, although the ONS urged caution around the figures due to the small sample size of respondents.

Leaders at the Al-Hikmah centre said they need more support from government to ensure BAME communities have higher uptake levels of vaccination.

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Nadeem Raja, general manager of the Indian Muslim Welfare Society, said: "Ideally we need outreach workers who can deal with myths and misinformation.

"I highlighted to the Prime Minister that lots of myths and disinformation are coming through from social media.

"The government's social media team and press team need to work a bit more against this."