Last Tuesday I received a text message about coronavirus vaccinations. Now, I’m not daft; I’d already had one suspicious text about my eligibility for Covid recovery funds, and texts from my GP surgery have a different header.

But as I read the text and looked at the link I realised it was genuine. I mean, faking the name of my Primary Care Network would imply a huge amount of effort by a scammer. I already knew they weren’t taking place at my own GP surgery so even that didn’t flag any suspicions. So I booked myself in, joined a long queue and had my first vaccination on 10 February.

Those familiar with the vaccination process will be wondering how I got one on the 10th when it was only supposed to be people in the top four groups before the 15th. So did I; I’m assuming that the vaccines just keep being delivered, my PCN had worked through the top four groups and had put on the two extra days to use what it had (it can’t be kept long or reallocated) to start of groups 5 and 6. I’m in group 6: over 50 with a medium-risk underlying health condition (the Type II diabetes).

Moving the goalposts

But if you cast your minds back to December, you’ll recall that everyone was supposed to have two vaccinations three weeks apart. The first shot takes three weeks to set your body up, the second shot reinforces and amplifies that protection. Like putting on a second coat of paint.

But then the government decided to change the goalposts to show that everyone eligible in the top four groups would be offered a first vaccination by 15 February – not that everyone eligible would be fully vaccinated.

Here are the NHS England vaccination statistics for the period 8 December to 16 February:

RegionFirst doseSecond doseTotal
East of England1,608,08660,9201,669,006
North East and Yorkshire2,101,42283,6162,185,038
North West1,765,66369,7761,835,439
South East2,185,49086,1722,271,662
South West1,559,91057,7151,617,625

Funny thing: you never see the numbers of second doses delivered in the dashboard graphics used by the BBC or the Guardian.

The upshot of this is that, in a desire to give as many people as possible at least one vaccination and placate restless backbenchers and party donors we run the risk of lulling people into a false sense of security. Over 15m people across the UK (13m in England) have had at least one vaccination but fewer than one million have had two.

Of course, being able to say “over 15m” sounds way better, especially when you consider that the population of the UK as a whole is around 70m. But a bit disingenuous, given that the vaccine isn’t properly effective until after the second dose – and even then it needs to be delivered nearer to three weeks after the first than twelve. And having pushed the second delivery out to 12 weeks it meant I was able to get my first jab earlier than expected, as the additional delivery to my PCN couldn’t be used for the second doses which were already scheduled for later this month and next.

You can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Thankfully.