In the Kent town of Sandwich, residents are wondering when they will ever get the Covid jab.
Pledges that everyone should be within 10 miles of a vaccine centre ring hollow.
Janet Yapp, 85, sees herself as lucky because she is fit and healthy – but she is concerned about her older friends.
"I have two friends who are almost 90 and I worry about them," says Mrs Yapp, a grandmother who used to work for an art gallery in London.
It is now more than six weeks since the rest of the country began getting vaccines, after Britain became the first country in the world to give jabs made by Pfizer the green light.
But not in Sandwich – which, perhaps ironically, is home to one of Pfizer’s manufacturing plants. It is in the heart of Kent, where the mutant strain of Covid which continues to fuel record deaths and hospitalisations was first detected.
On Tuesday, health officials announced that 4.2 million people across the UK have had the vaccine, including more than half of those over the age of 80. The day before, Boris Johnson said the programme was going so well that invitations will now start being sent to those aged 70 and over.
In Sandwich, the news only added to fears that the town had been entirely passed over.
Janet Yapp, 85, sees herself as lucky because she is fit and healthy – but is concerned about her older friends
Credit: Eddie Mulholland
Retired school teacher Peter Hughes, 83, said: "I’ve felt neglected, not just for lack of the vaccine, but lack of information. We’ve been sitting here wondering and wondering and no one has come forward. We’ve heard nothing from our GP.
"All we’ve heard is how well other parts of the country are doing. I have friends and relatives in London and Surrey who have had both doses.
"As an 83-year-old, it’s not a good thing to catch this virus, so I’m concerned and worry about the outcome if I caught it. I’m staying indoors as much as I can.
"My wife is younger than me and has decided she can withstand the rigours of the infection more. So she goes out and I stay indoors. There’s virus about in the town and community and at large. We’re only a few miles away from Thanet, which was one of the hotspots a few weeks ago."
This week, local MP Craig McKinley was told there was finally some good news for the town’s 5,000 residents. Vaccines will finally start later this week – for those who can manage a 28-mile round trip to Dover.
But Mr Hughes, who suffers from impaired vision, is worried about how he would get there if he even gets an invitation. "My eyesight is not good – I’ve got macular degeneration so I can’t drive," he said. "If we get a chance of vaccine some distance away in Dover, I’ll need someone to take me. I’m at a bit of a loss.
Peter Hughes says he is concerned about getting to the Dover vaccine centre
Credit: Eddie Mulholland
Trevor Bartlett, the leader of Dover District Council, told The Telegraph: "I can’t get to the bottom of why Sandwich are so slow. We’ve bent over backwards to offer the clinical commissioning group to use somewhere like the Sandwich Guildhall to deliver vaccines."
On Tuesday night, local health services refused to explain the situation, referring queries to NHS England. The body last week published a national plan which said that, by the end of this month, everyone should have a vaccination centre within 10 miles.
NHS sources suggested that Sandwich was missing out because its local doctors did not offer to run a service, leaving those from nearby Deal to cover the patch. But no one could explain why this problem had not been spotted earlier, when national plans were drawn up to roll out vaccines across the country.
Wilf Williams, of Kent and Medway CCG, said: "As part of the largest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS, we continue to increase the number of vaccination services across Kent and Medway, with 38 GP services already vaccinating and more opening this week and next.
"The rollout will continue with the addition of pharmacy sites and vaccination centres as more vaccine supplies come on stream, and NHS staff continue to work hard to ensure all Kent residents are vaccinated as swiftly as possible."
Latest figures show a postcode lottery across England, with fewer than one in 20 people in some areas having been offered the jab, while in others it is one in 10.
Vaccine count, first and second dose
Michael Holloway, a councilor for Sandwich, said residents are so concerned that they have been contacting him all week, adding: "In the last week or so, I’ve had anxious residents in their 80s and 90s knocking on my door."
There were also worries about elderly residents being able to travel 14 miles to the Dover vaccination centre.
On the streets of Sandwich, residents gathered in small, socially distanced groups on Tuesday, and the only topic of conversation was the lack of vaccines.
"We’re the very angry 80-year-olds of Sandwich," said one woman, who did not want to be named because "our doctors might be vindictive". She added: "We’ve heard absolutely nothing, and we’re furious."
Down the road, however, Christine and Douglas Darby received some news to celebrate. A long-awaited phone call from the vaccination centre in Dover told 89-year-old Mr Darby that he had an appointment for the vaccine on Friday morning.
He is relieved that he will now be able to attend two hospital appointments in the coming weeks – for an echocardiogram and MRI scan – with peace of mind. "I’ve got ongoing health problems and didn’t want to go to hospital without the injection," he said.
Mrs Darby’s reaction to the news that her husband would be receiving his first dose echoed those of people up and down the country.
"I’m delighted," she said. "I’m doing dry January, and now I feel like I can have a drink to celebrate."