Half of staff at older adult care homes in an area of London with new cases of the South African coronavirus variant have yet to receive a vaccine, new data show.
NHS England vaccine figures show 50.1% of eligible staff in the Lambeth borough had received a first dose as of Sunday.
Lambeth, in south London, is one of the areas where “surge testing” is currently in place after the South African variant was identified.
Across Lambeth and Wandsworth, there had been 44 confirmed cases, with some reportedly in a care home in Lambeth.
Experts have said the variant may be able to beat the protection provided by vaccines – a reason why the government introduced the huge testing programme.
Lambeth’s care home staff vaccination rate of 50.1% is 29.9% below the 80% level recommended by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) to help provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of the virus.
A Lambeth Council spokesman said: "Our care home staff reflect the borough’s wider demography, which includes those communities with higher than average levels of vaccine hesitancy, including our Black and minority ethnic residents and younger people. We are working hard to address vaccine hesitancy among care home staff, as well as our wider population."
He added: “Take-up of the COVID vaccination has exceeded usual vaccination programmes, such as winter flu, and we thank care home staff who have taken up the vaccine so far – while recognising that Lambeth vaccination rates are lower than other boroughs."
The second lowest is Luton, at 60.3%.
The spokesman said Lambeth took a new approach to increasing uptake last month, "with a focus on professional responsibility, enhanced and targeted support, and increased monitoring". It has established a taskforce to increase uptake, he added.
Meanwhile, Wandsworth, the other area where surge testing was introduced earlier this week, had the fourth lowest care home staff vaccination rate at 63.3%.
Watch: Thursday's coronavirus vaccine in numbers
And the figures show more than half of local council areas in England – 86 out of 149 – had not reached the 80% threshold.
Overall, they show 79.4% had had a first jab by Sunday, which suggested more than 96,000 staff across England have yet to receive a vaccine.
It comes one day after the government announced vaccines could be made compulsory for care home staff.
The Department of Health has launched a "consultation" on making it a condition of employment.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said "we have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to COVID-19".
However, Unison, the union representing public service workers, said it was the "wrong approach" and "could backfire badly".
The consultation announcement comes after Boris Johnson told MPs last month it is "wholly responsible for care home companies to think of requiring vaccination".
A few days later, England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty also stressed the "professional responsibility" of health and care staff to get vaccinated.
Watch: How England is leaving lockdown