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Young People Could Receive Covid Jab Sooner To Combat Rise Of Indian Variant

2 min read

The government could speed up the vaccination young people in areas of the country where the Indian variant is growing, the vaccines minister has said.

Nadhim Zawahi told Sky News that the government was looking at how it could "flex the vaccination programme" to help suppress the fast-spreading Covid-19 variant B1617.2, known as the Indian variant.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on Thursday night said the Indian variant was growing at a concerning rate in some areas, with most cases found in the northwest of England and some in London.

DHSC is rolling out surge testing, enhanced contact tracing and genome sequencing across 15 areas and has said it will take additional action if the Indian variant continues to spread.

The number of cases of the Indian variant across the UK has more than doubled since last week, rising from 520 to 1,313, Public Health England said last night.

Zahawi sought to stress there is no evidence that it escapes the vaccines currently being administered, or is more likely to cause hospitalisation or death.

He also confirmed the government still plans to go ahead with the latest easing of lockdown measures on Monday. From next week in England groups of six, or two households, will be able to meet indoors and indoor hospitality will reopen.

This is because "the vaccines are delivering," Zahawi said.However, to stop the spread of the Indian variant the government is looking at ways of adapating the vaccine rollout in affected areas, Zahawi said, including "vaccinating younger cohorts".

"We have been doing some work on multi-generational households where we vaccinate the whole household, over-18s and of course the older groups who are already eligible. Or, bringing forward the second dose," he said.

"We look at all of that and be guided by the clinicians as to what we do on that".

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, last night said the latest data showing the spread of the Indian variant "demonstrates why our swift and decisive measures are in place".

“We are monitoring the situation very carefully and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary," he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday said he was “anxious” about this latest coronavirus mutation, and said his government was "ruling nothing out" when it came to tackling its spread.

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary, said the government should consider introducing "surge vaccination" to areas affected by the Indian variant.

"Some alarm bells need to start ringing. We’re not out of woods yet," he tweeted.

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