Ministers are facing questions over the vaccination target today as they could claim success with far fewer than 13.9million people given jabs.
Boris Johnson has set the target of inoculating the four highest priority groups by February 15, warning that it will be ‘very hard’.
But although the PM and other ministers have suggested it will mean administering 13.9million doses, in fact that is how many people will be ‘offered’ jabs.
Government sources admit not everyone will take up the invitation, with polls indicating that a fifth of the population might refuse.
It raises the prospect that the target could be technically hit well before 13.9million doses have been administered – although it is still possible that number of jabs will be achieved by mid-February.
However, MPs warned that ‘under-delivering’ and then claiming to have achieved the goal ‘won’t wash’.
Nadhim Zahawi tweeted on January 4 suggesting that the government target is for 13.9million jabs by mid-February – using jab emojis in his message
Boris Johnson (pictured en route to view flooding devastation today) has insisted the government is on track to hit its vaccination target
Van-Tam’s mother gets her Covid jab
The 79-year-old mother of England’s deputy chief medical officer has had her coronavirus vaccination.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has previously spoken about encouraging his mother Elizabeth Van-Tam to be ready to receive the vaccine when she got the call.
Prof Van-Tam, who said his mother calls him ‘Jonny’, said he had told her it was ‘really important’ to get the jab ‘because you are so at risk’.
She had her vaccination on Thursday at a GP surgery in Whittlesey, six miles east of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.
Ms Van-Tam, who turned 79 this month, said afterwards: ‘I was really happy to get my Covid-19 vaccine.
The vaccine rollout appeared to get back on track yesterday after an alarming slowdown, with figures showing 346,000 jabs were given in the past 24 hours.
Mr Johnson insisted the target was still on schedule, but warned ‘constraints on supply’ were making the situation harder.
Matt Hancock said today that five million doses have now been given.
In order to administer 13.9million first doses by February 15, the Government must average more than 350,000 doses a day from now on.
But that the goal could be achieved with more like 300,000 jabs a if takeup is 75-80 per cent.
Government insiders told MailOnline the vaccinations are not mandatory and ‘no-one expects to get 100 per cent in every category’.
‘Some people will refuse to have a jab,’ they said. ‘We are trying all the time to encourage people to take up the offer.’
Some research has suggested up to a fifth of the public could turn down the invite. There is not believed to be any specific target for take-up in Whitehall, with the aim to cover ‘as many people as possible’.
Mr Johnson said when launching the target that doses will be ‘offered’ to individuals in the groups.
But at PMQs yesterday he suggested the commitment went further, saying the government is ‘on track to deliver a first vaccine to everyone in the top four cohorts by mid-February’.
Nadhim Zahawi also tweeted on January 4 that the government was aiming for 13.9million jabs by mid-February – using jab emojis in his message.
One senior Labour MP said everyone wanted the rollout to succeed, regardless of their party.
But they warned that claiming to have ‘invited’ the 13.9million in highest priority groups ‘won’t wash’.
‘They have just raised expectations. They should have managed expectations,’ the MP said.
‘What voters want is competence. The problem with this lot is the level of competence is unbelievable. That is cutting through to people.’
The former minister added: ‘They are doing what they have done throughout, they are over-promising and under-delivering.
‘What you’ve got is this happy puppy act that the PM does with ”everything is going to be wonderful”.’
Fresh issues were emerging in the vaccine rollout today, with Matt Hancock warning about ‘lumpy’ supplies amid claims stock are being diverted from the North East and Yorkshire to other areas that are lagging behind.
London and Suffolk have been a long way off the pace, with MPs complaining that the formula being used to distribute batches is based on low flu vaccine takeup from last year.
One vaccine hub in Durham is said to have had to cancel 900 appointments recently because a delivery of doses did not arrive.
GP surgeries said they are ‘ready to go’ but don’t have supplies, amid concern from some over-80s that they are yet to be called up for their jabs.
Helen Salisbury, who runs a GP practice in Oxford, said that there is a ‘problem with supplies’, and told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: ‘What I’m hearing more and more is we’re ready, we just don’t have the vaccine. It is a problem with supply.
‘It’s not that we order and we get what we ask for, we get what we’re given. There’s lots of practices ready to go, but we don’t have the supply yet.’
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock admitted that the situation was ‘challenging’.
‘The challenge to supply is, essentially, that we have a lumpy supply,’ he said.
‘The manufacturers are working incredibly hard to deliver the supply as fast as possible, and I pay tribute to them and their work, but it is challenging and therefore it isn’t possible to give certainty as far out as many GPs and those delivering on the ground would like – because the worst thing would be to give false certainty.
‘We do try to give information about what is coming next week, but going further out than that, until the supply smooths out, which I’m sure it will over time, I think that would give false certainty and the worse thing would be to have GPs across the country booking in large numbers of people and then having to reschedule those appointments unnecessarily.’
Meanwhile, Tony Blair has called for 600,000 vaccinations to be carried out each day to enable almost all Covid restrictions to be lifted by mid-May, four months earlier than currently planned.
The former prime minister said an accelerated rollout, as vaccine production is stepped up, could see the country move back to Tier Three restrictions in late February and Tier One as soon as early April.
Most remaining restrictions could be lifted as soon as around 70 per cent of adults have been vaccinated – mid-May under Mr Blair’s plans.
Tony Blair has called for 600,000 vaccinations to be carried out each day to enable almost all Covid restrictions to be lifted by mid-May