People aged under 30 are to be offered the Covid-19 vaccine from this week, as the UK ramps up its rollout.
Matt Hancock made the announcement for the next phase of the vaccination process on Sunday June 6.
The news comes as the Health Secretary divulged that the Indian variant is 40 per cent more transmissable.
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.
Booking in England opened up to those aged 30 and 31 on May 26 and the NHS has urged the million or so eligible to take up the offer of a jab at one of the 1,600 available locations.
Almost 75 per cent of UK adults have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and half of adults are now fully vaccinated.
A total of 27,661,353 second doses have been given out since the vaccine rollout began on December 8.
The Government estimates 60 per cent of the adult population will have been fully vaccinated by June 21 – although the end of the road map may be delayed.
Matt Hancock said that the decision to reopen on June 21 has been made "more difficult" by the Indian variant’s spread to the most dominant variant in the UK.
On May 31, Twickenham Stadium in London opened as a mass vaccination centre, inviting those over 18 to receive a first dose. NHS North West London tweeted that day that anyone aged 18 or over could attend if they did so before 7.30pm, leading to thousands of young people turning up to receive a jab.
However, NHS sources said the decision to invite all over-18s was not a change in policy but a move to avoid vaccine wastage at the end of the day.
Covid vaccination staff with a Pfizer jab at Twickenham rugby stadium in London on May 31, after the venue opened as a mass vaccination centre
Credit: Andy Rain/EPA-EFE
Ministers have repeatedly said the programme is on track to offer first doses to all over-18s by the end of July, but there are hopes that that the target could be reached earlier.
It comes as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in 12 to 15-year-olds on June 4.
The MHRA said the decision follows a "rigorous review" of safety and effectiveness in that age group.
The rollout of second doses has been accelerated, following concerns about the spread of the Indian variant, with ministers in a race to offer all over-50s their second jab.
Last night, Matt Hancock said in his announcement that the Government is "absolutely open" to delaying the June 21 unlocking.
Mr Johnson has said everyone "must play their part" and get a Covid jab, amid concern that the spread of the Indian variant is being fuelled by those who have refused to be vaccinated.
The Delta variant is now the dominant strain in the UK, and may pose a higher risk of hospitalisation than the Kent variant, Public Health England confirmed on June 3.
Noam Sobel – Sniffing out Covid-19 from Weizmann Institute on Vimeo.
Real-world data from Public Health England (PHE) has shown having both doses of vaccines prevents 90 per cent of symptomatic infections. Two doses of the vaccine appear to be effective against the Indian variant, the Health Secretary confirmed in a press conference on May 27.
It comes as Professor Neil Ferguson said most people in hospital with the virus have not had a vaccine.
He told the Today Programme 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."
Three vaccines are now in use – Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna – and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been 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 rollout, 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.
How many people have been vaccinated?
Restrictions were eased further in England on May 17, with people now able to meet indoors under the "rule of six" and two households rule. Indoor hospitality has also reopened under Step Three of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Additionally, The Telegraph understands fully vaccinated people will still have to self-isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone infected with Covid after June 21, when the last group of restrictions are due to be dropped.
Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?
Who will receive the vaccine, and when?
People in their late 20s will be offered the coronavirus vaccine as of this week, following the rollout for over 30s last month.
It is understood that the final cohort, of 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.
Under advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), people under 40 are offered Pfizer or Moderna, rather than AstraZeneca due to the link with rare blood clots.
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 same recommendation has been made for pregnant women, who can access the national booking service to ensure they are sent to sites with Pfizer and Moderna.
Currently, around 3,000 people aged 30 and over are being recruited for a clinical trial to see whether a booster vaccine dose could protect people against Covid-19 variants.
The Deputy Chairman of the JCVI has also stated that mixing vaccines could improve protection against coronavirus. Prof Harnden has said that different vaccine types could coalesce to boost the immune system and provide a longer-lasting response.
It comes as the Pfizer/BioNTech 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/BioNTech 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.
Medical advisers are also urging Mr Johnson to consider giving the vaccine to children as young as 12 to protect teachers.
Previously, a study by Pfizer suggested that its Covid-19 jab is "100 per cent effective and well tolerated" among children aged 12 to 15.
Mr Hancock confirmed on May 17 that the government had procured enough Pfizer vaccines to inoculate all children over the age of 12. He emphasised that the decision would not be taken lightly, and would be considered over the next two months as the rollout continues.
Are vaccinations having an effect?
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.
Health care 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.
NHS staff would be legally required to have a Covid vaccine under plans to crack down on transmission of the virus within hospitals.
Vaccine groups and population count
Why is there a delay between the first and second jabs?
Regulators have said the key to success will be to administer two full doses between four to 12 weeks apart, in order to give as many people the initial dose of the vaccine as possible, which offers some protection from the virus.
However, the rollout 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.
While a different study found that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine provided a "very high" level of protection from Covid-19 after just 21 days, without the need for a second "top-up" vaccination.
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.
Read more: From transmission to efficacy, the Oxford, Pfizer and other Covid vaccines compared
How will I be invited to get the vaccine?
The NHS will contact you when you are eligible for the vaccine and you will be invited to make an appointment.
If you are registered to a GP, you will be contacted by your surgery either over the phone, by text, email or post, in order to book in to receive a vaccine at your local vaccination centre.
You can still register at a GP surgery if you are not already registered to one, and it is advised that you make sure that your contact details are up to date to ensure that there are no delays.
However, if you are over 50 and have still not taken up an offer of the vaccine, the government urges you to contact your GP.
Alternatively, you can check whether you are eligible and find an appointment by using the NHS vaccination booking service or by calling 119.
Three modes of delivery
Health Secretary Matt 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.
Twickenham Stadium also opened up on May 31 as a mass vaccination centre, offering a vaccine to those over 18 who turned up on the day to prevent a waste in doses.
The Prime Minister has also announced the formation of an ‘antivirals taskforce’, which will be launched with the aim of developing at least two effective treatments for Covid by the end of the year.
What about the new variant of coronavirus? Will the vaccine still protect us?
The emergence of new Covid-19 strains, such as the South African, Indian and Brazilian variants, have threatened to undermine the vaccine and testing gains of recent months.
Now more than 20 cases of the so-called “Nepal variant”, responsible for disrupting travel with Portugal, have been discovered in the UK, officials have revealed.
Public Health England (PHE) said it was urgently investigating a new spike mutation, labelled K417N, to the existing Indian, or “Delta” variant of concern.
Although not yet formally designated even as a variant under investigation, it has been blamed by Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, for his decision to remove Portugal from the green list, throwing thousands of holidays into disarray.
But vaccines appear to prevent 97 per cent of infections with the Indian variant, real world data suggests, with no known cases of death among those fully vaccinated in the UK.
The Indian variant, now the dominant strain in the UK, has been estimated to be up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the previously dominant Kent variant, said Professor Neil Ferguson on June 4.
This comes amid warnings from the Imperial College professor and Government advisor that the data is looking "more negative" than it was last week.
He said the Indian variant was "substantially more transmissible", but added that the exact percentage could range from 30 to 100 per cent more depending on "assumptions and how you analyse the data".
Prof Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today that the new hospitalisation data points to the variant causing "more severe" disease, but said that most people hospitalised at the moment are unvaccinated.
People queue up to receive vaccinations on a bus in Bolton, which has experienced a surge in Covid-19 cases
Credit: PAUL COOPER
The government was accused of "incompetence" after it appeared to have stealthily imposed local lockdowns in hotspots of the Indian variant.
But Ministers were forced into a climbdown on May 25 amid criticism that their failure to launch a messaging campaign to explain travel restrictions had descended into farce.
The Government then had to publish new guidance to explain that curbs on travel and socialising were advice and not legally binding restrictions. It applied to residents of Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Bedford, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside.
Local lockdowns to tackle the spread of the Indian Covid variant have not been ruled out, but the Government is aiming to keep to the roadmap on lifting restrictions, Downing Street has said.
The Indian variant is increasing across the country
In response to the rise in the numbers of cases of the Indian variant, the government wants to vaccinate as many as one million people a day as part of a drive to save the British summer.
India has been added to the government’s ‘red list’, which prevents people travelling from the country to enter the UK.
Read more: Fast-spreading Indian variant is main strain in England’s virus hotspots
Number of cases detected through sequencing by variant
Even without the prospect of a new variant which could escape the vaccines currently being used, Mr Johnson said there was a "high likelihood" of a seasonal surge in coronavirus cases in the winter.
The number of cases associated with variants of concern in the UK
In more promising news, vaccines against new coronavirus variants should be ready by October, the team behind the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab said, after The Telegraph revealed that Britain would have the capacity to vaccinate the entire nation against new coronavirus strains within four months, once a new “super-factory” opens this year.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Mr Zahawi revealed over-70s will start to get booster Covid vaccines from September to protect them from new virus variants. The plan will see some people have three doses within the first 10 months of the jabs being in use.
The first booster doses will go to people in the top four priority groups for the original rollout – 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.
- READ MORE: Pfizer and Moderna jabs may help guard against next coronavirus pandemic
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