Johnson to Convene London Summit as Capital Lags on Vaccines

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration will convene a London summit to help tackle the lagging Covid-19 vaccination uptake in the U.K. capital, as the government tries to inoculate the most vulnerable groups ahead of the planned lifting of pandemic curbs next month.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the government is “intensifying” efforts to tackle vaccine hesitancy, particularly among Black and Asian communities, and the meeting on Friday will bring health officials and community leaders together to discuss how to boost the take-up of Covid shots.

“We’re homing on areas where uptake is lower, for example in London, where the percentage of first doses is slightly behind other areas,” Zahawi said in a televised press conference on Wednesday. “We need to make sure as many people are protected as possible.”

Johnson is counting on the vaccine rollout to free Britons from the bulk of coronavirus restrictions that have been in place for the past 15 months. Though data now show three in five adults across the U.K. have had both doses, regional numbers show London lagging behind.

Last week, Johnson delayed the final stage of easing pandemic rules in England by four weeks to July 19 to give clinicians time to double-vaccinate the groups most vulnerable to the virus, including all adults over 50 years old.

Johnson to Convene London Summit as Capital Lags on Vaccines

Breaking the Link

“The vaccines are our way out of this pandemic,” Zahawi said, adding that the program had already saved over 14,000 lives and prevented over 44,500 hospitalizations in England alone.

Health officials also said vaccines have broken the link between cases and hospitalizations, meaning that despite the U.K. going through another wave of infections, there has not been a comparable spike in deaths. The government recorded 16,135 new cases on Wednesday, the highest daily total since February, though the jump was attributed in part to surge in testing in Scotland. There were 19 deaths reported.

But the lower uptake of vaccines in London is causing concern. The latest regional data show 60% of Londoners have had at least one dose of vaccine, compared with a range of 73% to 79% across the other seven regions of England. The regional statistics are less recent than national data published Wednesday putting the national average at 82.5%.

Zahawi said the meeting in London on Friday will bring together senior officials, the National Health Service, Mayor Sadiq Khan, clinical experts and community leaders. He said outreach had included sending officials to help residents book appointments to receive doses, as well as using vaccine buses. Shots have been given “in churches, synagogues, gurdwaras, mosques, temples and many other pillars of the community,” he said.

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