Britain’s vaccination drive has dramatically slowed this month as numbers accepting a first dose has hit a record low.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has called for the England football team to be drafted in to encourage the young to get jabbed.
The latest seven-day average of first doses administered was 78,477 as of July 9, which is down from 173,995 a month earlier and lower than officials expected..
First doses are at the lowest since the seven-day average started being calculated on January 14. Back then it was at 253,704.
The latest seven-day average of total daily doses was 268,902 as of July 9. This is a drop from 492,817 on June 9.
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NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens said: “We still would like to see more people in their 20s come forward for their first jabs.
“And at the moment about three fifths of people aged 18 to 24 have had their first vaccination but there’s more to go.”
Prof Anthony Harnden, JCVI deputy chair, said: “We are concerned about this.”
Asked whether the England team could be part of an advertising campaign, he added: “I think it’d be a brilliant idea.
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“I think it would be wonderful if they were able to contribute in some sort of way to encouraging young, particularly young men to be vaccinated.”
Yesterday(Wed) the UK hit its target of getting two thirds of adults a second Covid-19 vaccine dose before the July 19 reopening.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Thank you again to everyone coming forward, and to those helping others to get jabbed.
“You are the reason we are able to cautiously ease restrictions next week, and return closer towards normal life.
“Now let’s finish the job. If you’re over 18, book both your jabs today.”
Only three million out of around five million 18 to 25-year-olds in England have currently been vaccinated. Rates are slightly lower in men.
Prof Jonathan Ball, leading molecular virologist at Nottingham University, said: “It’s disappointing that vaccine uptake has slowed.
“Whilst the virus circulates it will inevitably find vulnerable people who either haven’t been vaccinated or who haven’t been protected fully by the vaccine, with potentially dire consequences.”
From Thursday 650,000 people in England will receive text messages from the NHS to ask them to bring their second dose appointment forward to eight weeks after the first.
This is for those whose second appointment is still scheduled for 12 weeks later.
The JCVI has since changed its recommendation to an eight week interval.