South-east London has recorded the lowest vaccination rate in the country, as officials say a lack of reliable data and limited government funding is hampering efforts on the ground.
The NHS region, which includes Southwark and neighbouring boroughs Lambeth, Lewisham, Bexley and Bromley, has only given 60 per cent of its over 80s their first dose, compared with a national average of around 80 per cent.
The figure makes it both the worst performing region in London and in England for reaching the most clinically vulnerable age group. The second lowest area in the country was East London, at 63 per cent coverage. Although some areas of the city have reported higher figures, London as a whole is still lagging behind.
Last week we reported that Southwark Council had been snubbed by the government in an announcement that £23 million was being handed out to some local authorities – including Lewisham – in extra funds to help ensure vulnerable people and minority groups were able to access COVID-19 vaccines.
As reported, there is concern some groups are more likely to be ‘vaccine hesitant’ or reject offered jabs altogether.
Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Southwark Council’s public health chief, had described not being invited to bid for the scheme as ‘infuriating’.
In a letter to local government secretary Robert Jenrick also signed by MPs Harriet Harman, Neil Coyle, and Helen Hayes, and council leader Kieron Williams, Cllr Akoto called for more support for the borough, and information about why Southwark had been left out.
She said: “In Southwark over 120 languages are spoken, 25 per cent of residents identify as black, and almost 50 per cent of young people identify as black or minority ethnic.
“There is no question that with rates of vaccine hesitancy highest among younger age groups, we have a ticking time bomb on our hands.”
Harriet Harman has also called for more in-depth borough-by-borough vaccination statistics to be published by the government, currently only available by NHS region.