“I am delighted to say that 63% of residents of retirement homes for the elderly have now received a vaccination, which is a really significant increase from last week,” Mr Hancock told the House of Commons on Thursday. .
“And we are on track to meet our goal of vaccinating residents of nursing homes for the elderly by the end of the month, and hopefully sooner.
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About two-thirds of those over 80 – who are also in the top four priority groups for a vaccine – have also received a blow, the health secretary also told MPs.
The government has set February 15 as the deadline for offering the first dose of a vaccine to 15 million most vulnerable people.
Mr Hancock said that in total, more than five million doses of the COVID vaccine have so far been given to 4.6 million people.
“This is a huge achievement that we can all be proud of,” said Hancock. “We are vaccinating at a higher daily rate than anywhere in Europe”.
He added: “This virus is a deadly threat to all of us and as we respond through this huge effort, let us all take comfort in the fact that we are administering 200 vaccinations every minute.
“But, until then, everyone has to follow the rules to protect the NHS and save lives.
“And we can do it safely knowing that the tide will turn and that with science we will prevail. ”
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The Health Secretary reassured MPs that “the first indications” show that current COVID vaccines fight new variants of the virus “just as much as the old variant”.
But he added that the government would remain “vigilant in the face of new variants that we see abroad”, such as the one found in South Africa.
Former Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, now chairman of the Commons Health Committee, asked Mr Hancock about a possible increase in border measures to protect against importing variants overseas.
This week, the government shut down all UK travel corridors – which had allowed arrivals from some countries to avoid having to be quarantined – until at least February 15.
Mr Hancock told MPs: ‘The new variants change that question.
“It’s not just about making sure we don’t get more cases from overseas… it’s about making sure new variants that might not be treated as effectively by the vaccine. do not arrive and prevent them from coming. ”
“So this is something that we have recently taken very important steps on and of course we are following very closely. ”
Earlier Thursday, it emerged the government was considering asking travelers arriving in the UK to pay for quarantine in hotels for a fortnight.
Mr Hancock also downplayed concerns about a analysis of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine in Israel, which suggested that the effectiveness of the jab after a single dose was as low as 33% – rather than the 89% that was initially thought.
The 89% figure – indicating high short-term protection – was used to help justify the UK’s decision to delay giving people a second dose of vaccine for up to 12 weeks, as part of the an effort to get as many people vaccinated as possible with a first dose.
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But Mr Hancock told MPs that the results of the Israeli study “actually support the data on which we based our decision to switch to a 12-week dosing schedule.”
“We are looking at this data and, in fact, we are measuring the effectiveness here at home of those who have been vaccinated by matching the data between those who have been vaccinated and those who have tested positive,” he added.
“We are monitoring this and will publish this data as soon as it is clinically valid. ”
However, Mr Hancock urged those who have already received a dose of the vaccine to “exercise caution” and always follow the COVID rules.
“After being vaccinated you can still get coronavirus for several weeks and it’s really important for people to know that,” he said.
Later on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was’ too early to say ‘some lockdown restrictions could be lifted as he predicted’ a tough few weeks ahead ‘due to the COVID variant’ a lot more contagious ”previously found in the UK. Christmas.
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