Boris Johnson has attributed the slow pace of the program to the failure of people to come forward for booster jobs, calling it a “demand issue”.
Both the NHS and the Department of Health are on the firing line for the low number of vaccinations – Labor claims two million eligible people have yet to receive invitations.
But the prime minister insisted there is sufficient supply, adding: “It is a demand issue. We really urge people to come and do it.”
Speaking in Northern Ireland, Mr Johnson again rejected pleas from NHS leaders to move stricter Covid restrictions into his ‘Plan B’, insisting: “We are sticking with our plan.”
He acknowledged that the case rate is “high” and rising, with around 50,000 new infections being recorded every day across the UK.
But he insisted that when the summer lockdown was completed, they were “within the parameters of predictions” of government advisers.
People over the age of 50 and vulnerable groups who received their second vaccination six months ago — and whose immunity is declining — are now eligible for a booster dose.
But, unlike the original JABS programme, GP surgeries are not involved and it is left to the NHS to organize it centrally, as it wrestles with a vast and growing patient backlog.
Labor accused the prime minister of trying to divert attention from the failure of his government, which was so badly needed.
“This is a generally derogatory remark from Boris Johnson, who is trying to divert attention from his stumbling block vaccination program,” said Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth.
He warned that the booster program is “pausing” and that at the current rate, it will not be completed until next March – after the expected winter peak for infections.
On a visit to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary, Mr Johnson also commented on Ali Herbie Ali, who appeared in court on charges of terrorism-related murder of former Conservative MP David Ames.
“I hope the family of David Ames and those who love him get the justice they deserve at the earliest,” he said.
“What we shouldn’t do is let this horrific murder change the way we do our parliamentary work or change the way we work in our constituencies – which I think is the last thing David Ames wanted.”
The prime minister called for a dispute with the European Union over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, which needs to “end very swiftly”, as talks with Brussels continue.
And he defended the move to end all trouble-making litigation in Northern Ireland, following the death of Army veteran Dennis Hutchings during the 1974 shootings.
The Council of Europe has warned of possible violations of international law, including the European Convention on Human Rights.
But Mr Johnson said: “What we want to do is try to tell the story of what happened in The Troubles and try to bring as much cohesion and understanding as possible.
“But to end the endless cycle by which people are being brought to court, there is no new evidence for things that have been tried and heard many years ago.
“That’s what I think people want to end up with, and we want to find a solution that brings people together, allows people to grieve, but also allows people to move on.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /