Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said there is evidence that public enthusiasm for the Covid-19 vaccine has “risen significantly”.
Government figures show that 2,286,572 people across the UK received the first dose of the jab between December 8 and January 10.
During Health Questions, in response to Labour MP Rachel Hopkins (Luton South), Mr Hancock told the Commons: “The good news is that, over the last month, we’ve seen that the proportion of people who are enthusiastic about taking the vaccine has risen significantly and the proportion of people who are hesitant has fallen.
“I think people can see the enthusiasm that others have been taking the vaccine, but we’ve got to make sure that message of hope reaches all parts and all communities in the UK.”
Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt asked how expectations could be managed in the delivery of the coronavirus vaccination.
The South West Surrey MP, who is chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee, added: “Understandably, public expectations as to how quickly they’re going to get their vaccine are now running well ahead of the system’s ability to deliver, in particular causing floods of calls to GP surgeries who are already very busy.
“So what can we do to set expectations amongst the public that getting to population-level immunity will be a marathon and not a sprint?”
Mr Hancock replied: “(Mr Hunt) is wise to say that this will be a marathon, not a sprint. We have now, as of the early hours of this morning, vaccinated 39.9% of the over-80-year-olds in England.
“We will reach all over-80-year-olds and ensure that they have the offer of a vaccine over the coming weeks, and we’ll reach all of the top four priority groups by February 15.
“We’re on track and I’m confident that we’ll deliver that.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for NHS staff to be vaccinated within the next two weeks.
The Leicester South Labour MP told the Commons: “Those still going to work are, of course, NHS staff – the British Medical Association say 46,000 of them are off sick with Covid.
“Can (Mr Hancock) go further and faster and ensure that NHS staff, frontline staff, receive the vaccination in the next two weeks, and can he provide daily updates on the number of NHS staff who have been vaccinated?”
Mr Hancock replied: “He is absolutely right to raise the challenges that the NHS is facing today and it is very important that, whilst the rollout of the vaccine is proceeding well, and we are on track to hit the targets that we have set, we must also stress to everybody the importance of following the rules which are in place in order to control this virus and reduce the pressures on the NHS, which are very considerable at this moment.”
Conservative MP Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) called for shop workers to be prioritised for the vaccine in the next phase of its rollout.
He said: “Can I ask the Secretary of State to bear shop workers in mind who have had to work throughout this pandemic, including at the beginning, without any protection and who deal with hundreds of people every day? Can we make sure they are prioritised as we move from phase one into phase two?”
Mr Hancock replied: “We’ll be looking very carefully at those professions that will need to be prioritised in phase two of the prioritisation programme. We’ll look at, of course, teachers and police and others, but also we will look at shop workers and we will make those decisions based on the data.”
Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) raised concerns about the vaccine rollout in her constituency.
She said: “There are also concerns how some local GP surgeries are only vaccinating people over 80 with the surnames A to H.”
Mr Hancock replied: “Amongst the over-80s we haven’t put in place a more specific prioritisation because we need to make sure that the programme can get to all over-80s as fast as possible and as efficiently and as possible.”