When could under-25s be offered their Covid vaccine? Latest news on the roll-out
People aged 25-29 across England have been offered the coronavirus vaccine, with the NHS now contacting people in that age bracket to book a vaccine appointment via text, and GP surgeries will also issue invitations.
Everyone aged under-40 will be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine under recommendation from the JCVI, in response to concerns over a rare blood clot.
All over-30s have been eligible for vaccines in England since May, and more than half of people in their 30s have now received at least one dose.
Three vaccines are now in use – Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna – and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (Janssen) was approved for use in the UK as of May 28.
The government has ordered 20 million doses, which will be used to target “hard-to-reach” groups in the vaccine roll-out, such as those who may be reluctant to come forward for two jabs. Additionally, the Janssen vaccine will potentially be used as part of a booster programme later in the year.
The NHS website for booking Covid vaccinations crashed on June 8 as hundreds of thousands of young people queued to book nearly half a million slots. Health service bosses saw an average of 100,000 vaccine appointments scheduled every hour on the first day of the jab being made available to 25- to 29-year-olds.
It is understood that the final cohort – those aged 18 to 29 – involves just five million adults in England. In Wales, booking is already open to all people over the age of 18, while in Northern Ireland for those aged 25 and over.
Officials said that while the intention is to administer Pfizer or Moderna, it was possible that some of those in younger groups might be offered AstraZeneca on the day, in the event of any delays in supplies.
The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was approved for use for 12- to 15-year-olds, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency announced on June 4.
Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said: “We have carefully reviewed clinical trial data in children aged 12 to 15 years and have concluded that the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective in this age group and that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh any risk.
“We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved Covid-19 vaccines and this surveillance will include the 12- to 15-year age group.”
Dr Raine added: “It will now be for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to advise on whether this age group will be vaccinated as part of the deployment programme.”
More than 2,000 children were involved in the clinical trial to determine the safety of the Pfizer vaccine for teenagers, the chairman of the Commission on Human Medicines said.
Mr Hancock confirmed on May 17 that the government had procured enough Pfizer vaccines to inoculate all children over the age of 12.
Phase One of the vaccination programme, which was completed on April 13, involved offering the vaccine to the top nine JCVI priority groups and everyone over 50, estimated to include 32 million people.
Healthcare workers and adults on the learning disabilities register were also invited to get a coronavirus vaccine, along with over-16s sharing a household with someone who is immunosuppressed.
However, the roll-out of second doses has been accelerated for over-50s following concerns about the spread of the Indian variant.
A study found a single dose of the Oxford vaccine was 76 per cent effective in fending off infection between 22 days and 90 days post-injection, rising to 82.4 per cent after a second dose at that stage. Researchers involved in the trial said the findings support the decision made by the UK to extend the interval between initial doses and booster doses of the shot to 12 weeks.
The UEA study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, looked at data from Israel where the vaccine has been rolled out. Scientists found the vaccine becomes 90 per cent effective after 21 days – supporting UK plans to delay the timing of a second jab.
Those who had received the Pfizer jab were 49 per cent less likely to transmit the virus to others in their households, while transmission fell by 38 per cent for those given the AstraZeneca vaccine.
According to data released on May 20 by PHE, a fortnight after the first dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine, the chance of getting symptomatic Covid fell by nearly 60 per cent, with a second dose bringing this up to 90 per cent.
The PHE data examined cases of coronavirus among those aged 65 and over, who were in the first groups to get vaccinated.
While it is not yet known how long immunity lasts beyond 21 days without a second dose, researchers believe it is “unlikely” to majorly decline during the following nine weeks.
Mr Hancock said there would be “three modes of delivery”, with hospitals and mass vaccination centres along with pharmacists and GPs offering the jab.
In total, 250 active hospital sites, 89 vaccination centres, and around 1,600 local vaccination sites – including mosques, museums and rugby grounds, as well as pharmacies – have been set up to ensure every at-risk person has easy access to a vaccination centre, regardless of where they live.
Sites across the country, including the ExCel in London, Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester and Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, have been transformed into vaccine hubs and have been administering vaccines from January 25.
Epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson said most people in hospital with the virus have not had a vaccine.
He said on June 4: “It’s important to say that most people being hospitalised at the moment with this variant, and with any Covid variant, are unvaccinated.
“So, it’s clear that the vaccines are still having a substantial effect, though it may be slightly compromised.”
Prof Ferguson said the new hospitalisation data pointed to the variant causing “more severe” disease, but said that most people hospitalised at the moment were unvaccinated.
Due to the rapid spread of the Indian variant, nearly six million people are being urged to minimise travel as of June 8, and military personnel and extra testing will be deployed across the whole of Manchester and Lancashire to stop the spread of the Indian variant.
Roughly 10 per cent of the population of England is now being advised to restrict travel out of the affected areas.
Mr Hancock said the package of measures in Bolton and other areas had “seen a capping out of the increase in rate without a local lockdown, thanks to the enthusiasm of people locally and of course the vaccination programme”.
The vaccine drive will involve pop-up vaccination centres, including vaccine buses, and enhanced efforts to communicate with hard-to-reach groups, but will not see the areas receive extra doses or permission to abandon the age category system, according to the Department of Health and Social Care
Despite this, scientists said the variant had “radiated” into neighbouring boroughs.
The first booster doses will go to people in the top four priority groups for the original roll-out – those aged over 70 as well as frontline NHS and social care workers.
Military labs are to quadruple testing in the battle against Covid variants, it was confirmed on May 5. Ministers have pledged a £30m investment to facilitate weekly testing at the military laboratory Porton Down. This is part of government planning to safeguard the progress of the roadmap out of lockdown and the future of public health moving forward.
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