London and eastern England are lagging behind other regions in vaccinating those aged 80 and over, provisional data from NHS England shows.
Around two-thirds of people in the age group in northern England have now received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to figures for the period up to January 17.
North-east England and Yorkshire have vaccinated the highest percentage, with 67% inoculated, while just 50% of Londoners aged 80 and over have received the jab – the lowest of all NHS regions.
It comes as the Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported that the North East and Yorkshire would have its vaccine supply cut next week to ensure other regions catch up with the vaccination programme.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons that supply of the vaccine must be fairly distributed across the country when questioned about the HSJ report on Thursday.
He said: “We have got to make sure that the vaccination programme is fair right across the UK, and some parts of the country, including parts of the north-east and parts of Yorkshire, have gone really fast early on which is terrific.
“And we do have to make sure that the vaccination programme is fair everywhere so that everyone in the top four groups can receive that offer of a vaccine by the February 15.”
Some 64% of people in north-west England aged 80 and over have received their jab – the second-highest percentage – while eastern England sits just above London at 53%.
The contrast is even starker when the data is broken down into sub-regional areas of England, known as sustainability and transformational partnerships (STPs).
There are 42 STPs in England, each of which is made up of a number of local authorities, NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups.
In the Gloucestershire STP area, some 85.3% of people aged 80 and over have received a first dose of the vaccine, the equivalent of 31,903 people.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the list is Suffolk and north-east Essex where 22,265 people in the age group have received the jab – just 36%.
The figures are based on provisional data from NHS England for vaccinations up to January 17, combined with population estimates from the Office for National Statistics.
The HSJ reported that NHS sources had said GP practice-run vaccination centres in the North East and Yorkshire NHS region will have their vaccine supply halved from around 200,000 doses to about 100,000 next week.
It is not known how many will be available to hospital vaccination sites, known as hubs, or mass vaccination sites.
Referring to the HSJ report, Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes tweeted: “This is outrageous. So many sacrifices have been made by so many people to keep the virus in check, and we were going flat out to roll out the vaccine programme in the hope we could be the first place in the country to have restrictions lifted. Feels a very cruel blow.”
Dr Richard Vautrey, British Medical Association GP committee chair, said the Government needed to be “far more honest and transparent” about vaccine supplies and to provide clear justification about where they were being sent.
He said: “Of course we need widespread coverage across the country, but it’s incredibly frustrating for practices who have had such a high success rate so far, with lists of patients waiting, to have no certainty around future supplies – and even had planned supplies reduced – especially when they see mass vaccination centres continuing to be rolled out.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “All available vaccine doses are being delivered to vaccination sites and every GP-led vaccination site is receiving a delivery this week.
“To ensure all of those people in the top priority groups can get vaccinated quickly, targeted deliveries are being made to areas where there are more people left to vaccinate in the priority cohorts.”
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