London summit planned to increase vaccine uptake in capital

UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi reveals plan as Covid infections surge

The UK government on Wednesday announced it would hold a summit to tackle vaccine hesitancy in London, where vaccination rates are lagging behind the rest of the country.

The event will bring together senior officials, NHS leaders and London Mayor Sadiq Khan to discuss what can be done to encourage more people to be vaccinated.

London's lower rate has been ascribed to its high number of vaccine-hesitant ethnic minorities, but Office for National Statistics data suggests such hesitancy has halved among some groups in recent months.

The shift has seen a sharp rise in those from Afro-Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities taking the vaccine since the start of April.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi welcomed the news and said nine in 10 of all UK adults have taken the vaccine or said they wanted to.

Mr Zahawi praised churches, mosques, temples and synagogues for their efforts in distributing the shots in harder-to-reach communities.

"Our vaccination programme has been delivered in the community, by the community and for the community," he said.

 

The importance of maintaining vaccine momentum was shown in Wednesday's Covid-19 figures, which showed daily infections in the UK were at their highest level for months.

The UK reported 16,135 new cases and 19 coronavirus-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period.

The last time numbers were this high was on February 6, when 18,262 infections were recorded.

Wednesday's infections represent a significant increase on the 11,625 recorded for the previous day.

 

With infections rising sharply, because of looser Covid restrictions and the highly infectious Delta variant, the government is even more dependent on vaccines to plot its way out of the pandemic.

The latest data looked promising, Mr Zahawi said.

He said 14,000 lives were saved by the vaccination programme and 44,500 hospital admissions prevented.

Most people in hospital with Covid are unvaccinated and from younger age groups than in January.

 

With three in five UK adults fully vaccinated, walk-in clinics planned for the weekend and a move to address vaccine hesitancy and disinformation, there is room for optimism.

But the threat of mutations that are resistant to vaccines can never be dismissed, especially with the recent emergence of the Delta Plus strain.

Public Health England's Dr Mary Ramsay, speaking alongside Mr Zahawi, said officials were "on top of the situation" in the UK, where 41 cases of the mutation have been recorded.