After the UK hit its first coronavirus vaccine milestone of 15 million Britons over 70 last weekend, the NHS will offers expand jabs to a wider group. But despite calls to prioritise key workers in the next stage of the campaign, ministers and advisers have proposed rolling out the jab to over 40s by March.
They propose vaccinating people aged 40 to 49 next, after priority groups receive a jab.
Currently the vaccine is being rolled out to priority groups, with those over 50 years old and those with underlying health conditions receiving offers.
Britons in the priority groups account for around 32 million people across the UK.
But the UK is on track to reach the next target for vaccinations by March 24 at the earliest, meaning over-40’s could get their offers in less than five weeks.
READ MORE: Covid cases: 13 areas with increasing Covid cases – is your area one? List
The Mail reported the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who decide the priority groups, met yesterday to draft the next phase of jabs.
A source close to the committee told the outlet: “Members are now close to an agreement on what the next stage of the vaccine rollout programme should look like.”
The JCVI are said to have rejected prioritising key workers or ethnic minorities, who are twice as likely to die from coronavirus, in favour of continuing the age-based rollout.
Members of the committee are satisfied people at the highest risk from the virus are already accounted for, according to the Mail.
It comes after Professor Wei Shen Lim, head of the JCVI, told doctors in an online briefing age “dominates by a long way” in determining how severe cases of coronavirus are.
He added: “Age dominates by a long way, and almost all the underlying health conditions contribute some increased risk, but not a huge amount of increased risk.”
Prof Lim added one of the “great successes” of the vaccination programme had been the rate of deployment and this was now the “most important factor”.
On average, more than 416,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine a day have been administered in the last week.
It also comes ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson laying out how the UK’s lockdown exit strategy on Monday.
Tory MPs have pressured the Prime Minister to speed up the lifting of restrictions, while care minister Helen Whately insisted measures must be lifted “step-by-step and cautiously … because we want this to be the last ever national lockdown…”
A senior No 10 source told the Evening Standard Ms Whately’s comments on Sky News reflected Mr Johnson’s approach to lockdown.
Yesterday the UK recorded another 12,057 cases and 454 deaths within 28 days of a coronavirus test.
In total, 4,083,242 cases and 119,387 deaths have been recorded since the start of the pandemic.