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England’s chief medical officer said he has been left “saddened” by the proportion of unvaccinated patients in intensive care.
Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Professor Sir Chris Whitty said “the great majority” of those who were in intensive care and had not been jabbed were “not anti-vaxxers in the ordinary sense with some really weird ideas” but had been taken advantage of by those seeking to misinform them online.
Sir Chris said “misinformation” on the internet, “a lot of it deliberately placed”, about potential side effects from jabs was fuelling fears about whether Covid-19 was important enough to warrant vaccination, as well as whether the vaccines were effective against the disease.
“Insofar as I am frustrated it is simply people deliberately trying to scare away fellow citizens from something that is potentially going to be life-saving for them,” he said.
Sir Chris said the booster provided around 88% overall protection against being admitted to hospital.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “absolutely crazy” that people were ending up in intensive care with Covid because they had not been vaccinated.
“How absolutely crazy it is, absolutely crazy, that there are two million slots this week for people to get vaccinated and yet the majority of people in ICU for Covid are not vaccinated – 61%,” he told the press conference.
“It is sad but it is also a huge opportunity for us to correct it.”
Mr Johnson added: “There are still almost nine million people eligible, who haven’t had their booster.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking that as many as 90% of those in intensive care with Covid have not had their booster, and over 60% of those in intensive care who have Covid have not had any vaccination at all.
“People are dying needlessly because they haven’t had their jabs, they haven’t had that booster.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, said there were “extraordinarily high levels of infection at the moment” in the UK.
Hospital pressures would depend on how Omicron impacted on the older generation, he said.
The press conference was held on the day a further 218,724 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in England and Scotland.
It was the first time the daily recorded figure has passed 200,000, though the number will have been inflated by some delayed reporting from over the holiday period.