NO DECISION has been made on how people under 50 should be offered a Covid vaccine, UK officials said yesterday.
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said the first phase of rolling out the vaccine would focus on older people who are at most risk, that is the over 80s.
This would start with those in care homes and eventually cover 99% of people at risk of dying from Covid.
The current priority list known as ‘phase one’ is:
- People living and working in care homes
- Then those over 80, then over 75, over 70, over 65 and over 60
- Then adults, but not children, with a health condition that puts them at greater risk
- Then people aged over 55 and finally those over 50.
However, due to the rush to bring in the not fully tested vaccine, the priority list is subject to change with close attention being paid to how the vaccines work in older age groups, who often have a weak response to immunisation.
‘If phase one is completed then we will have protected hopefully over 99% of those individuals who are at risk of dying from Covid-19,’ Prof Wei Shen Lim, chairman of the JCVI said at a briefing at Downing Street.
He added: ‘There is uncertainty about phase two because we still do not know exactly how these vaccines will work.’
They could provide ‘sterilising immunity’, which means they work so well that people cannot even catch the virus. Or the vaccines could simply reduce the severity of the disease, but not stop people from catching and spreading it.
Which of these turns out to be the case will take time, and dictate who should get the vaccine.
Prof Lim said: ‘We have not decided who else should be vaccinated beyond phase one. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be vaccinated.
‘We need more information on the vaccines, who they are good for and whether they protect against transmission or infection.’
He said one option for phase two was to focus on people who were most likely to need hospital treatment if they caught the virus, or those at risk of ‘long Covid’.
At the same briefing, Dr June Raine, the head of the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, said it was not lowering its standards despite the need to assess Covid vaccines at speed for use in the UK.
She said: ‘Although we have adapted our processes to undertake our rigorous review of effectiveness and safety in a rolling way, there is absolutely no chance that we will compromise on standards of safety or effectiveness.’
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, said he had encouraged his 78-year-old mother to get ready to be vaccinated and said he was confident the NHS was ready to roll out the vaccine.