Official data on England’s vaccine rollout is ‘not good enough’

The RSS is calling for data to be published on how many doses have gone to each priority group, a breakdown by gender and age and which vaccine has been administered, how different settings are performing, and numbers of jabs ordered and delivered.

Data from the government and the NHS on the coronavirus vaccine rollout in England is currently “not good enough”, the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) has warned.

Professor Jennifer Rogers, a member of the RSS Covid-19 task force, said a dearth of data on who is receiving jabs meant that the public could not know how well the programme was progressing.

Some 5.9 million people in England and 6.8 million in the UK overall have received their first dose of a vaccine so far but there is no official information yet on how many doses have gone to each priority group in England.

Daily NHS England figures currently only show the overall number of doses, with weekly reports showing a breakdown between recipients over 80 and younger than 80, and by region.

Prof Rogers said the available information was “not good enough to be able to answer all the questions that we might ask of this vaccine rollout”.

“There’s so much information that we could gather about this vaccine data which is going to be so important to be able to answer all sorts of different questions,” she said.

“And the data that we have so far just really doesn’t allow us to answer many questions at all.

“And this is going to be one of the key things that’s going to help get us out of these national lockdowns and get us to the other side of this pandemic.”

She added that more detailed, regularly released data was needed to hold the government to account on meeting its targets and to monitor vaccine uptake and refusal rates for different groups.

Her comments came as the think-tank Policy Exchange called for vaccine data broken down by ethnicity, sex, age, and numbers who accepted or refused to be provided to identify any problems and avoid potentially “socially divisive lockdown measures”.

Its paper said early regional figures showed “substantial variation in vaccination rates, notably areas with the most ethnically diverse populations such as London featuring at the bottom of the list”.

Robert Ede, head of Policy Exchange’s health and social care unit, warned that a lack of granular data on uptake among certain groups risked undermining the rollout.

“If uptake remains low in poorer, more ethnically diverse neighbourhoods, as well as higher risk of more death and serious illness further down the line, there will also be reasonable public health grounds to keep these areas under tighter restrictions while measures ease elsewhere,” Mr Ede said.

“This would be a deeply undesirable situation that would amplify the health inequalities already found in society.”

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that vaccine data on ethnicity and occupation was being collected and would be published “very soon”.

A spokesperson for the NHS said: “As has been the case from the start of the vaccination programme, when someone is vaccinated this fact links to their NHS records, enabling population uptake to be monitored by ethnicity, and with aggregate data shared with local authority directors of public health as they lead work to ensure equitable community uptake.”

They added that ethnicity data was now being recorded through the IT system Pinnacle, as a “belt-and-braces supplementary measure”.

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