British doctors are being incentivised to vaccinate vulnerable housebound residents against COVID-19, with the government dismissing reports it is on target to jab all over-50s a month earlier than planned.
GPs will be paid an additional 10 pounds ($A18) by the National Health Service for every housebound patient they vaccinate as ministers strive to meet a target of inoculating all aged 70 and over, along with frontline health workers, by February 15.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Saturday the extra cash would allow doctors to reach the “most vulnerable people who might not be able to leave their homes” such as the elderly and those shielding.
Downing Street is aiming to have offered a first dose jab to all over 50s and the most clinically vulnerable by early May – but the Telegraph reported the pace of vaccinations meant the target could be achieved by April.
A spokesman for Mr Hancock said the May target remained.
“As the health secretary has said, that is an ambitious goal and lots of things have to go well to reach it,” he added.
UK Vaccines Taskforce chair Clive Dix said he was “very optimistic” about meeting the May ambition.
Fresh data indicated that up to February 5, almost 11.5 million first doses had been given – a rise of 494,163 on the previous day.
Based on the latest statistics, an average of 392,754 first doses would be needed each day to meet the 15 million first dose target by February 15.
Government sources rejected the Telegraph’s suggestions vaccinations could be rolled out for the under-50s at their place of work by the spring.
“We have no plans to roll out vaccines at work,” a source told PA news agency.
It comes as the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) unveiled plans to widen the availability of rapid-result testing to more workers who cannot stay at home during the lockdown.
Ministers will expand the program by offering access to lateral flow tests, which can produce results in less than 30 minutes, to businesses with more than 50 employees.
Only firms employing 250-plus staff previously qualified.
Officials said the move was part of efforts to “normalise” testing in the workplace and ensure the safety of those who cannot work from home by identifying asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.
But unions warned rapid tests were “not the magic bullet” and called for them to be followed up with “confirmatory testing”, citing that Public Health England found examples of missed asymptomatic positive cases during the mass testing pilot in Liverpool last year.
DHSC also announced on Saturday that more areas in England will be subject to a door-to-door testing blitz in a bid to find new variants of coronavirus, such as the South African mutation.