The main source of data on how many vaccines have been administered are weekly summaries from NHS England and the devolved regions, which are somewhat patchy, and out of date by a number of days.
When the Prime Minister announces a total from the podium of Number 10 however, he has every incentive to make sure every last vaccine has been counted, and people feeding him the number have every incentive to get it right. So I’ve been plotting the numbers he has mentioned over time.
The first number was contained within his 19th December ‘cancelling Christmas’ speech, when he detailed the tightening of restrictions — that was 350,000. Given that the first vaccine was administered on 8th December, not a hugely impressive number for two weeks, but presumably they were ramping up during that same period.
In the following week, things sure looked like it. Two days later, on 21st December, the Prime Minister announced a new total of 500,000 vaccinations. Three days after that, on Christmas eve within his statement on the EU trade deal, he announced “nearly 800,000” vaccinations.
The Minister for Vaccines Nadhim Zahawi has told me that that 800,000 number was accurate on 24th December, and, further, that the 1 million mark UK-wide was surpassed on Sunday 27th December.
What this tells me is that it was not merely a delay in reporting — the PM was actually reporting the latest live totals each day (as you’d expect, he has every incentive to have a high number to announce). The implied pace from the difference between announcements during that ten-day period was pretty reliable, as you can see on the chart — equivalent to 75,000 a day.
Since then, we haven’t heard any new numbers from the PM — until yesterday during his press conference, when he announced the new total of 1.3m. This is a full nine days since the 27th December when the total was 1 million: if the trend had continued we should have seen something closer to 1,675,000. This would seem to be a dramatic slowing down.
This week’s update from NHS England will be posted on Thursday, and we are promised a live dashboard (which can’t come soon enough). But in the mean time, that is not an encouraging number.