Dominic Raab Says Coronavirus Vaccines Will Be Offered To Every UK Adult By September
Dominic Raab said he was "quiety confident" everyone would get their second vaccine dose within 12 weeks of their first (Sky News)
The foreign secretary publicly set a target of September to have offered the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to every over-18 in the UK.
The September deadline is the most specific date yet provided by ministers as to when every UK adult will be offered their first dose.
Previously, it had been only suggested that this goal would be reached “by the autumn”, according to the government’s vaccine delivery plan published last week.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge, Dominic Raab said the deadline was the final stage in the government’s “three point roadmap” for vaccine delivery.
“We've got this three point roadmap to make sure that by 15 February we've got 15 million people, the highest risk people, 88% of those most at risk of dying as a result of coronavirus, we want them to get their phone first dose,” he said.
“We then want to increase that by another 17 million by the spring, that would take around 99% of those most at risk then have their first dose.
“And our target is by September to offer all the adult population a first dose. If we can do it faster than that, great, but that’s the roadmap.”
Mr Raab refused, however, to pledge that everyone will get their second dose within 12 weeks of their first, suggesting only that he was “quietly confident” this target could be reached.
The planned gap between the first and second dose of the vaccine was extended from 2-3 weeks to 12 weeks by the government to allow more first doses to be administered in a shorter time frame.
“I think if we follow the roadmap and the supply chains — along with the backup we’ve got, because we’ve got the volume of doses, 360 million, we’ve also got seven suppliers — we ought to be able to deliver on that.
"But of course, right the way through this pandemic we’ve had to adapt to all sorts of different things. We’re just focused on making sure we deliver on the roadmap we’ve got.”
Mr Raab, also suggested that restrictions could be gradually lifted by March if the vaccine rollout continued as planned.
“What we want to do is get out of this national lockdown as soon as possible,” he told Sky News.
“By early spring, hopefully by March, we’ll be in a position to make those decisions."
Mr Raab confirmed it was likely we'd see a return to the tiered system when current restrictions are relaxed. "I think it’s right to say we won’t do it all in one big bang," he explained. "As we phase out the national lockdown, I think we’ll end up phasing through a tiered approach.”
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens also gave more details on the coronavirus vaccination programme on Sunday morning, revealing that the health service was “vaccinating four times faster than people are newly catching coronavirus”.
“But that ratio will only be able to hold the line if people continue to do the right thing and prevent the transmission of coronavirus. If we can do that then we can see a way to a much better future,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
Mr Stevens addressed reports that the NHS was throwing away unused vaccine doses. The concern relates to the Pfizer vaccine which — unlike the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine — must be transported at -70C and so should be used shortly after it is removed from storage.
“The guidance from the chief medical officer and from the NHS medical director is crystal clear that every last drop of vaccine should be used,” he said.
“In fact, our GPs and vaccinators are doing a fantastic job and, in many cases, the vials of the vaccine they're getting, they're able to get six doses out of the originally described five dose vial.
“And what has been said is that if, at the end of your vaccination session you've got a few left, then please have a reserve list of staff and a high risk patients, per the four groups who are currently supposed to be getting the vaccine, so that they can be vaccinated at short notice.
As of Saturday, it was confirmed that 3.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccine had been administered across the UK, of which 3 million were first doses.