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Government Admits It Has Missed Its Target To Offer Vaccines To All Care Workers By End of January

Ministers hailed the "milestone" target of offering vaccines to almost all care home residents in England

3 min read

Ministers have admitted their pledge to roll out vaccines to all care home staff has been missed despite achieving their target of offering jabs to all care home residents.

Care minister Helen Whately said the government had hit their "milestone" target of rolling out vaccines to all older residents in over 10,000 care homes in England by the end of January, with only a small number of those with Covid outbreaks being missed.

But she was forced to admit their target to also offer vaccines to all care staff over the same period had been missed.

It comes as industry groups and charities said they were "concerned" at the failure to protect care staff and called on the government to leave "no stone unturned" in protecting older residents.

Speaking earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the care home vaccinations marked a "crucial milestone in our ongoing race to vaccine the most vulnerable against this deadly disease".

"We said we would prioritise care home residents, and that is exactly what we have done," he added.

"There will be difficult moments to come, and the number of cases and people in hospital remains dangerously high. But vaccines are our route out of the pandemic, and having protected 8.9 million people with a first dose so far, our roll-out programme will only accelerate from here on."

But speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Ms Whately admitted there was still a backlog when it came to care home staff. "We are still working through the care home staff... It will take a little more time to get through all the care home staff," she said. 

Responding to the comments, Vic Rayner, chief executive of the National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit care home firms, said just 27% of their members had 70% of more of their staff vaccinated by last week.

She told Sky News: "The priority over the next two weeks is to get the vaccine out to 1.6 million people who work across care. So it is a big, big task and a big clock is ticking away around that."

Meanwhile, Labour MP Liz Kendall urged ministers to release further data on the number of staff who had been offered the jabs.

"After more than 22k death in care homes this is good news," she tweeted.

"But we need to know how many staff have actually been vaccinated. (Government promise was to vaccinate all residents AND staff by end of Jan) & swift action to increase take-up for those that haven't."

Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "It's great to see the milestone met to protect care home residents, and we applaud all those who have worked tirelessly to meet it.

"We are concerned, however, that staff vaccination roll-out has not been nearly so effective – we cannot afford to leave any stones unturned for vulnerable people with dementia who have suffered so much this last year."

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