People in their 40s could be offered a Covid-19 vaccine before Easter, as the UK’s vaccine programme is to double its pace this week.
More than 24 million people have now received their first dose of a vaccine, with an average of around 280,000 jabs being administered each day.
If this pace continues, the UK should be able to begin vaccinating the under 50 age group by the end of March.
Boost in supplies
The deputy head of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said that most people over the age of 50 will be offered a vaccine “in the next few weeks”, with the over 40s due to follow next month.
The rollout is expected to double this week thanks to a boost in supplies of the Pfizer and Oxford Covid-19 vaccines, meaning that half of all adults should have had their first dose by Sunday (21 March).
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Professor Anthony Harnden hailed the vaccine rollout as “tremendously successful”, adding that people in their 40s will have been offered their first dose “before Easter”.
He said: “In primary care, we’re still vaccinating cohort six, all with underlying illness, and some of seven. But, throughout the country we’re going down to cohort nine.
“Most people over the age of 50 will be vaccinated really within the next few weeks so it is tremendously successful.
“Those first nine priority groups included 99 per cent of all hospitalisations and deaths, certainly in wave one of the pandemic, so we’re feeling very optimistic.
“We’re seeing a very sharp reduction in the deaths and hospitalisations throughout the country.”
Having the vaccine “outweighs the risks”
Professor Harnden urged people to get their vaccine when it is offered and stressed that the risk of not having the jab “far outweighs the risks” of any potential side effects.
His comments come following the temporary ban of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine in several countries following reports of blood clots among some people who have had the jab.
Germany, France and Italy are the latest countries to suspend its rollout, along with the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, Iceland and Thailand, which have all temporarily suspended its use.
AstraZeneca said its own review had found no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.
In clinical trials for the jab, the number of clotting incidents was small and “lower in the vaccinated group” than in those who were unvaccinated, it added.
Professor Harden added: “We have given 11 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to date and there’s no demonstrable difference between the blood clots in those that have been vaccinated from those in the general population.
“We have to remember that there are 3,000 blood clots a month on average in the general population.
“And because we’re immunising so many people, we are bound to see blood clots at the same time as the vaccination, and that’s not because they are due to the vaccination. That’s because they occur naturally in the population.
“One ought to also remember that Covid causes blood clots. So, the risks of not having the Covid vaccination far outweigh the risks from the vaccinations.”
“We will keep monitoring this and if there are any safety signals that we are concerned about, we would let the public know straight away.”