Boris Johnson today joined the millions of Britons to be vaccinated after receiving his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
The Prime Minister, 56, gave a triumphant thumbs up after having his inoculation at St Thomas’ in central London – the same hospital he was admitted to when struck down with Covid in April last year.
Encouraging others to also get jabbed, he said he ‘literally couldn’t feel a thing’ when his nurse, Lily, injected him in his left arm.
By receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine himself, Mr Johnson is sending the strongest possible signal he believes it to be safe following hesitancy from European leaders.
Countries including France, Germany and Italy had suspended use of the jab after a handful of recipients – out of millions – experienced blot clotting.
Faced with comparably sluggish rollouts and low take-up, their action was widely condemned as a political calculation which has now been reversed after the regulator declared it safe. Italian PM Mario Draghi tonight said he will have the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Taking a thinly-veiled swipe at his Continental counterparts, the Prime Minister added: ‘Listen to the scientists, listen to what the European Medicines Agency had to say, to what the MHRA [the British regulator] has said.
‘The risk is Covid – this is a great thing to do.’
Britain has now vaccinated over half of its adult population and the rollout yesterday hit a record pace after 660,276 doses were dished out.
Boris Johnson today joined the millions of Britons to be vaccinated after receiving his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab
The Prime Minister, 56, gave a triumphant thumbs up after having his inoculation at St Thomas’ in central London – the same hospital he was admitted to when struck down with Covid in April last year
PM gets jab almost a year after fighting for life with Covid
Boris Johnson’s Covid jab tonight comes almost a year after he was severely struck down with the disease.
After testing positive on March 27, 2020, the Prime Minister was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital with ‘persistent symptoms’ on April 5.
On April 6, he was moved into intensive care and was unable to carry out his prime ministerial duties, forcing Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputise.
Mr Johnson later said ‘it could have gone either way’ and paid tribute to the medics who saved him.
Pinning the blame for his vulnerability on his weight, he subsequently resolved to get fitter and started early morning runs in the grounds of Buckingham Palace as well as cutting back on his penchant for cheese and wine.
The Prime Minister has since declared he is ‘bursting with antibodies’.
Taking to Twitter shortly after being jabbed, Mr Johnson said: ‘I’ve just received my first Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine dose. Thank you to all of the incredible scientists, NHS staff and volunteers who helped make this happen.
‘Getting the jab is the best thing we can do to get back to the lives we miss so much. Let’s get the jab done.’
Latest Department of Health data shows 528,260 first doses were administered on Thursday, on top of another 132,016 second shots.
Fellow cabinet ministers including Grant Shapps, Therese Coffey and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi have also been jabbed.
The PM’s jab will put him among the thousands of Britons expected to receive their vaccine today.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a ‘mammoth team effort’ had led to Britain hitting record pace, while health minister Lord Bethell pointed out it meant nearly 1 per cent of the country had been jabbed in a single day.
The programme had been steadily gaining pace this week, after 529,119 total doses were given out on Tuesday and 581,855 on Wednesday. Some 26.2million Britons have now received their first dose, the equivalent of half the adult population in Britain, and 2m have received both injections.
Despite the promising week, the NHS is gearing up for a significant shortage of vaccine doses next month due to supply issues in India.
A shipment of 4million AstraZeneca shots from has been delayed, for reasons that aren’t totally clear, with No10 holding secret talks with New Delhi to get the roll-out back on track.
It means Britons aged over 40 who were expecting to be called for their appointments next month will need to wait until at least May while ministers prioritise current stock for over-50s and for people due their second doses.
Meanwhile, MailOnline today revealed Britain has almost stopped giving out the Pfizer Covid vaccine to new patients so it can save supplies for second doses.
The NHS in England appears to now be rationing the jab, which was used to kick off the rollout in December, and only used it for one in 10 new patients in the first week of March.
The Prime Minister previously said he is ‘bursting with antibodies’ after contracting coronavirus in early April last year
NHS England figures show 79 per cent of over-55s in the country had at least one dose of the vaccine by March 14, but London is significantly lagging behind in uptake
No10’s vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi got his first dose of a coronavirus vaccination this morning in Lewisham. He was jabbed by NHS England’s director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani
It comes after NHS figures revealed how vaccine uptake rates differed across the country, with only 60 per cent of over-55s in parts of London receiving their first doses compared to almost 90 per cent in parts of Worcestershire.
There are 21 areas of the country that have yet to hit more than 70 per cent of this age group, and 17 of them are in London. For comparison, the Isles of Scilly has vaccinated 822 of its 876 over-55s — giving it an uptake of 93.8 per cent — and Stafford, Mid Suffolk and the Wyre Forest in Worcestershire have all jabbed more than 89 per cent.
MINISTERS SCRAMBLE TO DEFUSE STAND-OFF WITH INDIA BY INSISTING IT ISN’T BLOCKING SHIPMENTS
Ministers were today scrambling to defuse the standoff with India over 5million missing doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine, with No10 holding secret talks with New Delhi to get the roll-out back on track.
Matt Hancock yesterday admitted a delayed shipment from the Serum Institute of India was a key factor in shortages that will slow the campaign down next month, meaning millions of over-40s will have to wait until May to get their first dose.
But in front of the entire nation last night, Boris Johnson – who is due to travel to India in the coming months to secure a lucrative post-Brexit trade deal – claimed Narenda Modi’s government had ‘not stopped any exports’.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today waded into the confusion and repeated the claims of the Prime Minister, saying India was not ‘withholding vaccines’ and that the SII had ‘some supply issues’.
Asked if Mr Modi’s administration was blocking exports, Mr Dowden told LBC: ‘No. India is not withholding vaccines, and I pay tribute to the work of the Serum Institute. They have had some supply issues with 5million doses.’
It comes as one of the Government’s top scientific advisers insisted today that Britain’s vaccine in shortage in April won’t hamper the UK’s inoculation drive.
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, an Imperial College London epidemiologist whose grim modelling spooked ministers into the first blanket shutdown last March, dismissed fears that the hold-up could threaten plans to ease lockdown.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the delay was ‘slightly disappointing’ but insisted it shouldn’t have an ‘enormous effect’. And he added that No10 still has ‘enough’ supply to continue with the programme – which has already vaccinated almost 26million Britons.
Another Imperial scientist today said it was ‘unrealistic to imagine the first dose roll-out will be as fast’. Professor Robin Shattock, who is involved in vaccine research, said the delay was ‘manageable’, however.
Uptake figures are based on the latest population estimates by Public Health England’s National Immunisation Management Service (NIMS).
Officials insist vaccines are divvied out evenly across the country, suggesting poor uptake is to blame. Health chiefs are concerned about high levels of vaccine hesitancy among black and ethnic minorities, fuelled by anti-vaxx messages on social media.
England’s vaccine roll-out was widened to over-50s this week but a shortfall in the vaccine supply next month is expected to mean millions of over-40s won’t be inoculated until May.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock this week revealed supplies would be used to mop up the over-50s who haven’t already been jabbed, while ensuring Britons don’t miss out on crucial top-ups. Diverting supplies to inner-city neighbourhoods with low uptake rates will stop areas leading the way from moving down the priority list.
MailOnline’s analysis of the latest vaccine statistics shows most parts of the country are well on their way to achieving the target of offering first doses to all over-50s by April 15.
But most of the capital is seriously lagging behind in the roll-out to over-55s, with more than half a million in the age group yet to receive a jab in London.
Uptake was worst in Hackney (59.2 per cent), Newham (60.2 per cent), Kensington and Chelsea (61.1 per cent), Southwark (61.3 per cent) and Westminster (61.4 per cent). Nearly 90,000 over-55s still have to come forward for a jab in those boroughs alone.
On the other end of the spectrum, 35 areas of the country have vaccinated more than 85 per cent of people in that age group.
The Isles of Scilly, Stafford, Mid Suffolk and Wyre Forest had jabbed more than 89 per cent, followed by the Isle of Wight (88.7 per cent), Wyre (88.3 per cent), Babergh (87.9 per cent), Malvern Hills (87.4 per cent) and Harborough (87.2 per cent).
East Suffolk has vaccinated 88.5 per cent of its over-55s despite being one of the very few local authorities in the country to have more than 100,000 people in the age group.
The data also showed just 64 per cent of carers working in people’s homes have taken up the offer of the vaccine.
Uptake among the group — who work with the most vulnerable people in society — is lowest in Barnet in north London (28.5 per cent), Barnsley in south Yorkshire (29.3 per cent) and Bath and North East Somerset (29.3 per cent).
Meanwhile, official data suggests Britain has almost stopped giving out the Pfizer Covid vaccine to new patients so it can save supplies for second doses.
The NHS appears to now be rationing the jab, which was used to kick off the rollout in December, and only used it for one in 10 new patients in the first week of March.
In January, when AstraZeneca’s vaccine first got approved, Pfizer’s still accounted for three quarters of all first doses but this fell to just nine per cent in the first week of March, when only 200,000 new patients were given it.
MailOnline understands deliveries of the Belgian-made jab will be smaller from April because of a planned reduction and there is also a risk the EU will try to rescue its shambolic roll-out and try to block shipments from reaching the UK.
Ministers must be careful with the supply they do get because they’re already over halfway through supplies planned up to June – and they owe around 10m people a second dose.
TOP 10 AREAS FOR VACCINE UPTAKE AMONG OVER-55s
Isles of Scilly
Isle of Wight
93.8 per cent
89.4 per cent
89.2 per cent
89.1 per cent
88.7 per cent
88.5 per cent
88.3 per cent
87.9 per cent
87.4 per cent
87.2 per cent
BOTTOM 10 AREAS FOR VACCINE UPTAKE AMONG OVER-55s
Kensington and Chelsea
Hammersmith and Fulham
59.2 per cent
60.2 per cent
61.1 per cent
61.3 per cent
61.4 per cent
62.0 per cent
63.7 per cent
64.7 per cent
64.8 per cent
65.3 per cent
The Department of Health said everyone will get their second doses within 12 weeks as planned. Both the Department and Pfizer declined to comment on the delivery schedule but insist there is no problem with supplies, amid reports on social media of Britons being told there is a shortage.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is available in much larger quantities, is now taking over as the country’s staple vaccine as medics rattle through the priority lists.
But a hiccup in supplies of that because of a blocked shipment of 5million doses from India – combined with a need to reserve Pfizer stocks – means the number of people getting first doses will be ‘significantly constrained’ in April, the NHS has warned.
This means millions of people in their 40s will likely have to wait until at least May to get their first doses. But Whitehall insiders are still hopeful that some will get jabs ahead of schedule, amid claims under-50s would be invited by Easter.
Figures in the MHRA’s Yellow Card reports, which record people’s reactions to the vaccines, show that the proportion of first jabs that are Pfizer’s has tumbled.
While 78 per cent of all first doses were Pfizer jabs between December 8 and January 24, this split reversed between February 7 and March 7 so that it only accounted for 34 per cent.
The vaccine was used for 1.2million first doses between December 8 and January 4 before Oxford’s got approval.
AstraZeneca’s came into use on January 4 but by January 24, Pfizer’s still accounted for 78 per cent of all first doses – 5.4m out of a total 6.9m.
Come February, when AstraZeneca’s was being churned out at a rate of 2million per week, the proportion of new patients who were getting Pfizer’s jab started to come down but it remained a mainstay of the rollout.
It had accounted for 60 per cent by February 7, when AstraZeneca started to gain ground.
Weekly data available from early February shows the proportion of weekly first-dose vaccines that were Pfizer ranged between 30 and 50 per cent in February.
But it then plummeted to just nine per cent in the first week of March, when only 200,000 people out of 2.2million were given the Pfizer jab.
In that most recent week the number of second doses was about equal to the number of first doses, suggesting a pivot in the way the jab is being used.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Vaccines will save thousands of lives and reduce hospitalisations and any vaccine approved by the MHRA is proven to be both safe, and effective.