Teachers and police may not be prioritised in vaccine roll-out

Teachers and police officers may not be prioritised in vaccine roll-out once all 32million over-50s are jabbed with No10’s advisers expected to sign off today on continuing with age-based approach

  • The JCVI is today expected to sign off its recommendations for the next stage
  • It is likely to recommend continuing to dish out jabs according to age groups
  • Ministers have previously suggested teachers could be bumped up priority list

Teachers and police officers are not expected to be prioritised in the next stage of the vaccine roll-out once all over-50s have had the jab.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is today expected to sign off its recommendations for the next stage of the roll-out, when the nine most vulnerable groups are inoculated.

And it is likely to recommend continuing to dish out jabs according to five-year age groups rather than prioritising key workers, The Times reports.

The committee is expected to recommend working through the age bands down to the age of 16. Age is known to be the biggest risk factor for Covid.

Both Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock have previously said teachers, police officers, shop owners and other key workers could be bumped up the priority list once the top groups have been jabbed. 

Teachers and police officers are not expected to be prioritised in the next stage of the vaccine roll-out once all over-50s have had the jab

But suggestions that the next stage could involve vaccinations being organised by ethnicity are not expected to be signed off. 

A source close to the committee told The Times ‘ethnicity is still on the table, but I don’t think we are going to go that way’ after a meeting yesterday.

Members were said to be concerned about mortality rates among South Asians, who studies have shown are twice as likely to succumb to the virus as their white peers.

The source said: ‘It looks like age is the way things are heading, and work won’t be what the JCVI recommends.’

 

A hybrid version of the coronavirus has surfaced in California after the British Kent variant and a strain found in the US merged together inside an infected person.

The variant, not yet named, has only been spotted once but scientists fear there are likely to be more cases.

Experts are worried because it carries mutations which appear to make it able to spread faster and also to slip past some of the immunity made from past infections or vaccines.

It was formed from the Kent Covid variant – known scientifically as B.1.1.7 – and a Californian variant called B.1.429.

Scientists in the US claim they merged in a ‘recombination event’, the New Scientist reports. This happens when two different versions of the virus infect the same cell and then swap genes while they are reproducing, giving rise to a new variant.

Researchers have warned in the past that these events are possible but said they are ‘unlikely’ because they require very specific conditions and the coincidence of mostly uncontrollable events. They are more likely to happen during huge outbreaks.

It is believed to have happened in this instance because a number of mutations matching those on the Kent and California variants all appeared in the same place at once. There are no details of the patient and it is unclear whether the combination happened in them, or whether they caught the variant from someone else.

While experts have said there is no need to panic about new variants, one admitted recombination was ‘dangerous’ because it could change the virus so suddenly. 

JCVI sources said earlier this week that prioritising people based on their occupation would ‘create too much complication’ and ‘risk slowing the roll-out down’. 

It comes after the head of the vaccines task force Clive Dix said it’s possible every adult could receive both doses of the vaccine by the end of the summer.

He told Sky News: ‘We’re probably talking August time or September time all done, maybe sooner if we need to.’

No10 has previously said it wants to offer all adults a first dose by September but Mr Dix said there would ‘definitely’ be enough supply in the next six months to jab as many people as the UK wanted to.

Ministers want the details of the next stage of the roll-out to be released in time for next Monday, when the PM reveals his lockdown exit strategy. 

NHS England officially moved onto the second stage of the drive on Monday, inviting over-65s and ‘clinically vulnerable’ younger people. 

The programme will aim to give everyone over the age of 50 — roughly 32million people in Britain — their first dose by the end of April. But at current pace, it could reach the target by the end of March. 

NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens vowed to double the number of jabs being given in order for the Government to hit that target. It could see up to 1million doses dished out each day.  

The Labour party and workers’ unions have been campaigning for weeks for the Government to prioritise people based on their jobs once the top groups have been jabbed. 

London mayor Sadiq Khan told the Radio 4 Today Programme yesterday morning: ‘The next phase should include those occupations where…you’re more likely to catch the virus with adverse consequences’.

A source on the committee told The Telegraph: ‘One of the main factors behind the success of the rollout so far has been the simplicity of the prioritisation rules because it has been based largely on age.

‘Once you make things more complicated, you run the risk of slowing things down. 

‘You create more telephone calls for surgeries to make, while people are bashing on the door demanding a vaccine because they think it’s their turn.’

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