The NHS must “redouble” its efforts to vaccinate hard-to-reach communities as coronavirus cases continue to rise, MPs warn.
The Public Accounts Committee urged the health service not to take its “eye off the ball,” as a report found nearly three million people in England are still unvaccinated.
It comes the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the UK has risen 29% to almost 3.5 million, the latest figures show.
Dame Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, praised the “successes” of the initial vaccination rollout delivered by NHS England.
But she said: “Despite work to date, low vaccination rates persist in many vulnerable groups and fresh approaches are needed to reach them.”
The committee also highlighted the comparatively low vaccination uptake which continues to persist in many vulnerable groups.
According to its data, overall uptake of vaccinations have been high, with 90% of adults having had two doses of the vaccine by the end of May 2022.
However, gaps widen when taking booster doses into account.
For example, compared to people of White British origin, people of Black, Black British and Pakistani origins were less than half as likely to have had their boosters.
“When you look at who hasn’t taken up their vaccine, or who hasn’t had their booster, it’s quite a stark story of inequality,” Ms Hillier said.
“It’s important that the early success does not mean that the Department and NHS England take their eye off the ball in tackling future challenges and getting vaccines to hard-to-reach groups.”
Dr Sharon Raymond started the Vaxi Taxi initiative in 2021, which allows passengers to get jabbed in the back of a cab.
She says it is “critically important” that inequalities of health are addressed.
“I think we need to be thinking outside of the box when it comes to vaccination and health in general.
“Because we know, across the country, there are people who are experiencing barriers in accessing NHS healthcare for all sorts of reasons.”
The call to re-strengthen the vaccination campaign comes as everyone over the age of 50 will be offered a COVID-19 booster and a flu jab this autumn, ahead of winter.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of Immunization at UKHSA, said: “Widening the eligibility for the flu vaccine will help reduce the number of people getting seriously ill and ease pressures on the NHS, particularly during the busy winter period.
“It is also important that everyone eligible for the COVID-19 booster gets the jab when invited, including pregnant women, who are among those at higher risk. Having COVID-19 during pregnancy can lead to complications. Getting the vaccine, including a booster , offers the best possible protection for you and your baby.”