People Aged 40-49 Will Be The Next To Get A Covid-19 Vaccine As Scientists Confirm Phase 2 Rollout
The JCVI said an age-based approach would be used [PA Images]
Government scientific advisers have set out the next steps in the vaccine rollout, saying they will prioritise people based on age, but dismiss calls to prioritise key workers.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations (JCVI) have set out the order in which jabs will be offered in the second phase of the vaccination plan, starting with those aged 40-49.
The first wave of vaccinations, set to be completed by spring, includes those in the top nine priorty groups, including all those aged over-50 and people with significant underlying health conditions.
In a briefing on Friday, the JCVI said data from the first phase had been "really encouraging" after it found the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs had already had an impact on the number of people getting severely ill from the virus.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair, Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said ministers had been advised to contine with the "easy and simple" age-based approach, as they dismissed calls for occupations to be considered.
It will mean the second phase will target the remaining adults in the UK, starting with those aged 40-49, before moving to those aged 30-39, before ending with the 18-34s.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already moved forward the government's target for offering jabs to all adults, saying they were aiming to complete the next steps by the end of July.
The JCVI updated their plans earlier this week to include 150,000 people with learning difficulties who had fallen outside the scope of the priorty list.
The group, which would have only been vaccinated when their age group were eligible, were added to priority group 6 which includes people aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions.
Under the previous plan, only those with a "severe and profound learning disability" or severe mental illness were counted in the group, but the JCVI backed measures to include everyone currently listed on GP practice learning disability registers.
In a statement, Public Health England said: "To ensure those most at risk of death or hospitalisation are prioritised for vaccination, JCVI supports the plan to invite anyone on the GP learning disability register - as well as adults with other related conditions, including cerebral palsy – for vaccination as part of priority group 6."
The announcement of the next stage of the vaccine rollout plan comes after the new figures revealed 18.7 million adults in the UK have already recevied their first jab.
In England, the NHS data shows this includes 94.3 per cent of over-80s, 100.3 per cent of 75-79s, 94.4 per cent of 70-74s, 75.3 per cent of 65-69 year olds and 15.9 per cent of the under-65s.
Explaining the figure for those aged 75-79, which sits at over 100 per cent, the NHS said they were using population estimates which are not completely accurate.
Around 96.4 per cent of frontline NHS staff have also recieved their jab, as well as 89.4 per cent of the clinically extremely vulnerable and 89.6 per cent of older care home residents.
Meanwhile, ministers had come under pressure from Labour and teaching unions to defy the JCVI advice to include teachers on the priority list.
But the announcement today confirmed ministers had chosen not to alter the JCVI priority list, meaning teachers will only be able to receive jabs either because their age group is eligible or they have another underlying health condition.
The JCVI said while they had considered occupations where people were more likely to be exposed to the virus, they found severe illness among those groups was still highest in older people.
"An occupation based vaccine programme has never been tested before in a large scale in the UK," Professor Wei Shen Lim said.
He warned switching to an occupation approach would be "more complex" and could "potentially introduce more delays into the programme".
But speaking to the BBC's Today programme, the approach was backed by David Salisbury, a former direct of immunisation for the government, who said vaccinating by age was the "logical prioritisation".
"I'd hate to think vaccine gets wasted because there are not people to match every dose," he said.
"The logical prioritisation is to use age which is so much more demonstrable than saying 'my job is this or my job is that.
"So whilst I do have a view that some occupations may justify some prioritisation, logistically the straightforward way to do it is through an age-based approach."