The capital’s public health chief has made a plea to hesitant Londoners to get the coronavirus vaccine before the “challenge” of autumn and winter.
Professor Kevin Fenton said confidence in jabs had increased across the city but the uptake was still “much lower” than it needs to be.
Writing for the Evening Standard, the London Regional Director for Public Health England said: “Confidence in the vaccines has risen, especially among black, Asian and minority ethnic communities who were initially most hesitant — but the uptake is still much lower than we need it to be.
“They were hit hardest at the start of the pandemic, alongside those from more disadvantaged parts of the city, and we do not want to see Covid ravage these groups again.”
Encouraging pregnant women to get the jab, he added: “Low uptake rates in pregnant women have also meant rising infections, hospitalisations, and complications including stillbirth. The vaccines are safe and the Pfizer and Moderna jabs are recommended for all pregnant women.”
He made the rallying cry ahead of an expected increase in coronavirus cases as children return to school, the weather turns colder and more workers head back into the office.
He called on over-16s to get their jabs now and warned if the number of vaccinated people across the city does not increase the NHS could be in a “very difficult place”. Professor Fenton, inset, added: “Vaccines are our strongest line of defence.”
It follows a warning from an expert advising the Government that it was “realistic” to say there will be a “significant surge in infections”.
Professor Ravindra Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, told BBC Radio Four’s World at One programme last week that the rise is “predictable” and will happen “despite best efforts”.
Asked if he was worried about autumn as more pupils return to school, he replied: “Personally, I think yes because anyone who treats patients and is having to deal with the surge in cases as a clinician is worried because things are already very stretched and conditions are not good. So, yes, this is going to happen here, and while it may not be visible to many in society, it is going to cause significant problems for us all.”
PHE data estimates that the vaccine has prevented more than 100,000 deaths. About 67 per cent of London’s over-18s have had their first dose but only 59 per cent have also had their second.