Almost half of all over-50s in England have now been fully vaccinated against coronavirus and as many as two-thirds have been covered in parts of the country leading the way, latest official figures show.
About 10.5million people in the age group had received both vaccine doses across England by May 2 – a rate of 47 per cent – according to NHS statistics published on Thursday.
But, as has been the case throughout the rollout, analysis by MailOnline shows uptake has varied. Some 93 of England’s 315 local authorities have already seen more than half of their over-50 populations receive a top-up shot but in 26 areas it is fewer than four in 10 and in two authorities the rate is below 30 per cent.
Eastbourne in Sussex had the highest vaccination rate, dishing out second doses to 64 per cent of people in the age group.
After Eastbourne, the highest rates were seen in the Isles of Scilly (63.0 per cent), Wyre (61.2 per cent), Mid Suffolk (57.9 per cent), East Suffolk (57.8 per cent) and Bassetlaw (57.2 per cent).
Rates were lowest in London, where ministers are worries that hesitancy is stopping people come forward for a jab when they are invited. Just 22,637 out of 88,187 over 50s in Newham, south London, have had their second dose — an uptake rate of just 25.7 per cent.
More than two thirds of people aged 50 and above in parts of Sussex are now fully vaccinated against Covid, NHS England figures suggest
Professor David Livermore, a medical microbiologist at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline that despite some areas still lagging behind, there was enough in the vaccination data to safely ease Covid restrictions more quickly than is being laid out in Boris Johnson’s ultra-cautious roadmap out of lockdown.
The next relaxation is not due for another 10 days – when foreign travel will resume and pubs and restaurants will be allowed to offer indoor service – but social distancing and mask-wearing will remain in place until at least June 21.
Of the ten areas with the lowest full vaccination rate for over-50s, nine were in the capital. They were: Tower Hamlets (28.2 per cent), Hackney (30.1 per cent), Westminster (31.7 per cent), Southwark (32.7 per cent), Hammersmith and Fulham (32.9 per cent), Kensington and Chelsea (33.5 per cent), Lambeth (33.8 per cent), Lewisham (35.0 per cent) and Corby in Northamptonshire (35.0 per cent).
Experts believe high ethnic minority populations, who have been found to be far more hesitant about the vaccines than white Brits in London’s inner-city boroughs are partly behind the low figures.
Just two thirds of black Caribbean Brits have taken up the offer of the Covid vaccine compared to nearly 95 per cent of white adults, according to Office for National Statistics data released yesterday.
And separate Public Health England data also shows just 65 per cent of black over-50s have had a first dose of the vaccine compared to 93 per cent in the White population.
In total, the UK has dished out 34million first jabs and 14million adults are now fully vaccinated. Statistics show two areas of the country have fully vaccinated fewer than 30 per cent of their over -50s, both of which were in London.
Professor Livermore told MailOnline: ‘I definitely think lockdown could and should be lifted more swiftly than is being done.
‘It has considerable human and economic costs and we are now in a position where over 70 per cent of people have some immunity from vaccination or prior infection and it is spring, when winter respiratory viruses decline anyhow.’
Britain confirmed 2,613 Covid cases and 13 deaths on Thursday, as an array of studies showed the number of people getting sick with the virus is continuing to fall.
Official testing sites picked up slightly more positive results than last Thursday – a 6.9 per cent rise on the 2,445 – but the daily death toll fell by 41 per cent on a week ago, when it was 22.
Another 404,226 people got their second vaccine dose yesterday, with another 139,097 being given the first jab. This means 16.3million people are now fully immunised and a further 34.9m have been given one.
Vaccines and lockdown are working so well tumbling hospital admissions mean hospitals can close their surplus intensive care wards set up especially for Covid patients, a leading medic claimed today.
Dr Rupert Pearse, from the Intensive Care Society, said: ‘Obviously it varies around the UK, but colleagues across the country tell me most surge ICUs have now closed. The surge area at my hospital is still open but only has a handful of patients. There are less than 10 patients [now] and at one point we had more than 150, so that gives you an idea of the scale.’