JCVI set to unveil Covid vaccine priority list once over-50s are jabbed

People in their 40s will be next in line for Covid vaccines once the NHS has made its way through the nine priority groups, the Government confirmed today.

Ministers confirmed they will follow the ‘age-based rollout’ recommended by experts, taking a decade at a time down to age 18 rather than offering people vaccines based on their job, ethnicity or whether they’re obese.

Trying to offer jabs to workers such as teachers or police officers first, the JCVI advisory group said, ‘would be more complex to deliver and may slow down the vaccine programme’.

More than 18.7million people in the UK have already had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine and Boris Johnson said he aims to have reached everyone in the top nine priority groups by April 15.

If this is achieved it will mean half of the population of Britain – and a group accounting for almost all Covid deaths – have been immunised and people in their 40s could start to be jabbed before the end of April.

The programme will then aim to offer a jab to every adult in the country by the end of July, roughly coinciding with the ambition to totally lift lockdown at the end of June.

Vaccine experts the JCVI acknowledged in its advice to the Department of Health today that some groups were at higher than average risk of developing severe Covid-19, such as men, ethnic minorities, obese people and deprived communities.

These would not be bumped up the priority list unless they were old or otherwise unhealthy, the JCVI said, but should be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid chief at the JCVI – the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – said in a briefing today that the vaccines being used in the UK ‘are safe and work very well’ as he urged all adults in Britain to be ‘ready to join the queue’ to get their jab.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will confirm the update at a 5pm press conference tonight.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid chief at the JCVI - the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation - said in a briefing today that the vaccines being used in the UK 'are safe and work very well'

Matt Hancock is due to confirm the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's decision on  who will be in line for Covid vaccines once the over-50s are jabbed at a Downing Street press conference at 5pm today

Professor Wei Shen Lim (left), Covid chief at the JCVI – the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – said in a briefing today that the vaccines being used in the UK ‘are safe and work very well’. Matt Hancock (right) will confirm the Government’s policy at a Downing Street press conference at 5pm

Professor Wei Shen Lim said today: ‘Vaccinations stop people from dying and the current strategy is to prioritise those who are more likely to have severe outcomes and die from Covid-19.

‘The evidence is clear that the risk of hospitalisation and death increases with age.

‘The vaccination programme is a huge success and continuing the age-based rollout will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time, including to those in occupations at a higher risk of exposure.’

Ministers have faced calls to prioritise key workers, such as teachers and police officers, in the next phase of the inoculation drive. 

POSITIVE ATTITUDES TO VACCINES IMPROVE IN UK

Positive attitudes towards the coronavirus vaccine have increased, with nearly 95 per cent of adults saying they have either received the jab or would be likely to have it if offered, new data shows.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, published on Friday, show 94 per cent of adults surveyed between February 17 and 21 reported they had now either received the vaccine or would be very or fairly likely to have it if offered.

This is up from 91 per cent the previous week and has risen from early December 2020 when around eight in 10 (78 per cent) adults indicated they would be likely to accept the vaccine if offered it.

Of the adults who said they would be unlikely to have the vaccine or had decided not to have it, the most common reasons were being worried about long-term impacts on their health (43 per cent), being concerned about the side effects (37 per cent) and waiting to see how well it worked (34 per cent).

Source: Press Association 

But the JCVI’s deputy chairman, Professor Anthony Harnden, this week argued there was no strong scientific argument to prioritise teachers next.

He told MPs that singling out professions could ‘slow’ and ‘complicate’ Britain’s vaccine roll-out, leaving people who are more vulnerable to coronavirus unprotected for longer.

Professor Wei Shen Lim explained today that moving to an occupation-based rollout for the vaccination programme would be difficult as people’s jobs are not well recorded in primary care records.

‘If we went down the route of restructuring the programme by occupation we would run the risk of missing some people because not all occupations are well-documented and we don’t know all the occupations that are at risk,” he told an online news briefing.

‘So, we might be able to identify some occupations that are at higher risk but there will be other people in other occupations that we may miss them.

‘If we go down an age-based programme it is simpler and we are less likely to to miss people who are at risk themselves.’

In other coronavirus news today:

  • The Covid Symptom Study, which uses an app to track how many people are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, suggests cases have levelled off in the UK at about 9,500 per day and the outbreak isn’t shrinking any more;
  • SAGE adviser Professor Calum Semple said that opening windows would be more effective at cutting transmission in schools than getting the children to wear masks;
  • People with long Covid are claiming that getting vaccinated is getting rid of their long-term symptoms – experts suggest it may ‘reset’ the immune system;
  • A Government report published overnight found that ethnic minority people may not be at fundamentally higher risk of dying of Covid-19, and that their increased danger may actually just be down to a bigger chance of catching the virus;
  • The NHS may offer Covid vaccines at night-time to Muslims during Ramadan because there are concerns some people may not take up the jab during fasting in the day.

The original priority list was drawn up based on how vulnerable people are to falling seriously ill and dying with Covid.

NHS England bosses today confirmed invites are now getting handed to people aged 64 who have not yet been vaccinated.

NHS workers, care home residents and staff, adults with learning disabilities or over-16s with serious underlying health conditions are the only other people officially eligible for the jab.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Public Health England’s head of immunisation, said: ‘The age-based approach will ensure more people are protected more quickly.

‘It is crucial that those at higher risk – including men and BAME communities – are encouraged to take the vaccine, and that local health systems are fully engaged and reaching out to underserved communities to ensure they can access the vaccine.’   

A UK Government spokesperson, confirming that ministers would follow the advice of the JCVI, said: ‘All four parts of the UK will follow the recommended approach, subject to the final advice given by the independent expert committee. 

‘The UK Government remains on course to meet its target to offer a vaccine to all those in the phase one priority groups by mid-April, and all adults by the end of July.’ 

The vaccine rollout has progressed well since it started in December and the NHS successfully hit its target of reaching 15million people in the groups of people at highest risk of severe Covid-19.

Next up will be the target of reaching everyone over 50 by April 15. Once all over-50s have been immunised that will have covered half of the UK’s population.

Over-50s and the high risk groups account for around 98 per cent of all people who have died of coronavirus, statistics suggest, so the death rate should plummet once this first phase has been completed.  

The second phase will then begin to vaccinate younger people, in order to protect them from the risk of severe Covid – even though it is small – and in the hope that immunising them will stop the virus from spreading.

Early studies and data show that the vaccines being used in the UK – made by pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and AstraZeneca – are working well in the real world. 

A study of NHS workers has found that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may stop three quarters of infections, even those mild enough not to cause any symptoms.

Swab test screening of staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge showed the number of people testing positive fell from 0.8 per cent to 0.2 per cent 12 days after people had had an injection. 

The ‘very impressive’ findings are another sign that the UK’s gamble to delay the second dose in a bid to get wider coverage quicker has paid off.

Curbing symptomless infections is crucial to stopping outbreaks from growing unknowingly because people who do not feel ill are less likely to self-isolate.

Numerous studies have indicated that a single injection of the Pfizer jab prevents severe illness and death but to what degree it blocked asymptomatic spread was unclear. Research has also suggested Oxford University’s jab stops more than 60 per cent of asymptomatic cases.

The study, led by Cambridge University, analysed thousands of weekly Covid tests at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in January.

It found that 26 out of 3,252 swabs (0.8 per cent) from unvaccinated workers yielded a positive result, compared to four out of 1,989 (0.2 per cent) in staff 12 days or more after their vaccine.

The study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, also found asymptomatic infection was halved in those vaccinated for less than 12 days, suggesting immunity kicks in rapidly in many cases.

Independent experts reacting to the pre-print hailed the findings, saying they signalled Britain was headed for a ‘much brighter future’.

Professor Jonathan Ball, a molecular virologist at the University of Nottingham, said: ‘To see such a reduction in infection rates after a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine is very impressive and shows that vaccination truly does offer a way out of the current restrictions and a much brighter future.

‘It will be important to understand whether the reduced risk of infection played out across all the exposure risk groups included in the study, but nonetheless, this is still excellent news.’

And vaccines may also be powerful enough to stop long Covid, the longer lasting effects of coronavirus infection which have left hundreds of thousands of people feeling ill after they are supposed to have recovered.

Officials estimate about one in 10 Brits suffer from tiredness, headaches and fever months after beating the coronavirus, but a handful of sufferers given the jabs have told their doctors that they felt better after being inoculated against the disease, reports The Times.

Experts say this could be because the jabs ‘reset’ the immune system, or due to a ‘psychological boost’ from receiving the shots.

There have been calls for governments to take long Covid more seriously amid fears hundreds of thousands could be suffering from long-lasting side effects. A World Heath Organization official yesterday said the condition was ‘real’ and ‘significant’. 

Professor Ian Hall, who runs a long Covid clinic in Nottingham, said he has already been contacted by several patients who said their symptoms improved after getting their first dose.

He told the newspaper it was possible the effects were down to the vaccine giving them a ‘psychological boost’.

But he added: ‘I think, anecdotally, there is enough here to suggest there might be some interesting consequences of the vaccine, presumably altering the immunological balance, which is contributing to resolution of low-grade inflammation, which is making people feel better. 

‘I would not go as far as to say it proves a connection but science is based upon following up interesting observations. 

Despite massive success and having one of the world’s fastest progressing vaccine programmes, England’s drive is subject to a massive postcode lottery, with some areas having already started dishing out Covid jabs to healthy people in their twenties. 

NHS England statistics going up to February 21 show 15 areas of the country have vaccinated more than half of all residents. But as the country moved into the second stage of the rollout last Monday – moving down the age brackets from the current 65 to 69-year-olds group – the disparity in vaccine distribution across the country has come to light. Pictured: The top five and bottom five performing areas. Data is based on MailOnline's analysis of the NHS figures as well as Office for National Statistics population estimates for nearly 7,000 districts in England

NHS England statistics going up to February 21 show 15 areas of the country have vaccinated more than half of all residents. But as the country moved into the second stage of the rollout last Monday – moving down the age brackets from the current 65 to 69-year-olds group – the disparity in vaccine distribution across the country has come to light. Pictured: The top five and bottom five performing areas. Data is based on MailOnline’s analysis of the NHS figures as well as Office for National Statistics population estimates for nearly 7,000 districts in England

BBC presenter Gary Lineker, 60, yesterday revealed he had received his first coronavirus vaccination, praising it as ‘quick, painless, liberating and well organised’.

It means Lineker has got his jab early, with the NHS currently only vaccinating those aged 64 or over; the clinically vulnerable; people living or working in care homes; health and social care workers; and people eligible for carer’s allowance. 

MailOnline analysis of official vaccination figures yesterday laid bare the true extent of the postcode lottery.

Data revealed that some towns on the Isle of Wight and in Devon have inoculated nearly 20 times more people than an inner-city region of Sheffield.

London has given out the fewest doses to over-65s, with eight areas of the city falling in the bottom 10 parts of the country for rollout to the age group.

Bottom of the pile was Westminster (58.7 per cent), followed by West London (65.7 per cent), Tower Hamlets (66.1 per cent), Newham (70.3 per cent), City and Hackney (73.6 per cent), Barking and Dagenham (75.4 per cent) and Hammersmith and Fulham (75.6 per cent).

Top of the pack was Telford and Wrekin in Shropshire, which has vaccinated 97.7 per cent of all residents, followed by South Warwickshire (97.6 per cent) and Stafford (96.7 per cent).

Yarmouth and Freshwater in the Isle of Wight has given out the most first doses to all age groups, with 57.5 per cent of the villages having been given a jab.

This was followed by Sidmouth Town in Devon (57.33 per cent) and Felixstowe in Suffolk (54.74 per cent), with the vast majority of the other top ten areas being in the South East.

Meanwhile, inner city regions performed worst in vaccinating adults overall, with fewer than seven per cent receiving a first dose in parts of Leicester, Manchester, London, Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham.

Prisoners will NOT jump vaccine queue: Downing Street quashes rumour that inmates will get Covid jab ahead of other groups 

By DANIEL MARTIN FOR THE DAILY MAIL

Prisoners will not be offered a coronavirus vaccine ahead of other groups, Downing Street has insisted.

It was believed that local NHS health teams would be given the flexibility to go into jails and vaccinate inmates and staff – regardless of age.

This could happen if they thought it was more efficient to vaccinate entire prison populations stuck in confined spaces rather than make repeat visits.

But No 10 has now said this will not happen – though one Whitehall source questioned whether it would be possible for ministers to prevent it. 

‘The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) haven’t made a specific recommendation on prisons,’ the source said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted there was no question of prisoners receiving the jab before other groups in society.

Prisoners will not be offered a coronavirus vaccine ahead of other groups, Downing Street has insisted (File image)

Prisoners will not be offered a coronavirus vaccine ahead of other groups, Downing Street has insisted (File image) 

‘That is obviously not the case and is not true,’ the spokesman said. ‘Prisoners won’t be prioritised for vaccines.

‘They are vaccinated at the same time as the general public in line with the JCVI prioritisation groups, no quicker than that.’

The government has faced calls to prioritise key workers such as teachers and police officers in the next phase of the rollout.

However, giving evidence to MPs on Wednesday, the deputy chairman of the JCVI, Professor Anthony Harnden, indicated officials were likely to continue the age-based approach, saying there was no evidence teachers were more at risk than other occupational groups.

‘I would say that one of the key reasons that this programme has been so successful is because it has been simple, it’s been deliverable, and it has been rolled out very quickly and people understand it,’ he told the Commons Science and Technology Committee.

The body representing police officers in London said Boris Johnson had shown contempt by not prioritising them for the vaccine.

‘It’s absolutely disgusting – they don’t give a damn about us,’ said Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation.

‘Police officers are catching and dying from Covid-19 because of their job and yet we are still not being given the protection the vaccine offers. It’s like we don’t exist.’

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