It was announced on June 18 that everyone over the age of 18 in England would now be able to book their Covid-19 vaccine.
Over 78 per cent of the UK adult population has received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with more than 32 milion having been given their second jab.
The extension of the vaccine roll-out comes as part of the government’s drive to give every adult in England a first dose of the vaccine by July 19.
The new target – brought forward from July 31 – will coincide with the the final stage of lockdown easing, after a four-week delay was announced on June 14.
The Health Secretary said that the four-week period would be used to fully vaccinate the “majority” of the 6.6 million people aged over 40 who had only received one jab, which he said would "save thousands of lives".
The news comes as officials are drawing up proposals that could allow people who have had both Covid jabs to avoid having to quarantine on their return from amber list countries, although they will still have to be tested, The Telegraph understands.
Meanwhile, compulsory vaccinations are to be administered to all staff in care homes for older people in England.
Care staff are to be given 16 weeks to receive the vaccine, else be reassigned a new role away from frontline care – or even risk losing their jobs.
The announcement is expected to be made in the coming days – but could cause issues for those who wish not to have the jab. However the government believes it to be an essential move to stop the spread of the virus – as well as falling in line with doctors receiving the Hepatitis B vaccine.
This weekend saw a surge in vaccination efforts, as venues across the country opened their doors to anyone needing a first or second dose of the vaccine. Some hubs in London stated that people did not need to be registered with a GP in order to receive their dose.
How many people have been vaccinated?
In the past week, the Government has delivered around 170,000 first Covid vaccine doses a day. At that rate, some 4.5 million more first doses could be delivered in the four-week delay to reopening.
Downing Street’s argument for the extension – from June 21 to July 19 – is that it buys the country more time to both monitor the Delta variant – first found in India – and, crucially, deliver millions more doses of the vaccine.
However, Professor Graham Medley, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has warned that the country could return to seeing hundreds of deaths a day.
"Although the numbers of deaths are low at the moment, everyone expects that they will rise. The question is really as to what level they will rise," he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on June 15.
It comes as the Covid reproduction ‘R’ number has risen to 1.4, but vaccinating younger people should slow down the exponential rise in cases, scientists believe.
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
Three vaccines are now in use – Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna – and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (Janssen) was 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.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds on June 4.
However, shortages of the Pfizer vaccine have forced the NHS to slow the rollout of jabs – another reason why Boris Johnson chose to extend the final stage of England’s roadmap.
Supplies of the Pfizer jab to virus hotspots in which Covid case rates are rising among younger groups have been cut, The Telegraph has learned.
Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?
Who is currently eligible for a vaccine?
Anyone over the age of 18 is now being offered the coronavirus vaccine as of June 18, as part of the drive to have all adults having received a first dose of the vaccine by July 19.
The NHS website for booking Covid vaccinations crashed on June 8 as hundreds of thousands of young people queued to book nearly half a million slots. Health service bosses saw an average of 100,000 vaccine appointments scheduled every hour on the first day of the jab being made available to this age group.
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.
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.
It comes as herd immunity from Covid-19 is not possible without vaccinating children, an Israeli health chief suggested on June 17.
Israel began its rollout of the Pfizer vaccine for children a fortnight ago, but England’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) appears to be veering away from jabbing under-18s.
How do I book my Covid vaccine appointment?
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.
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 as possible the initial dose of the vaccine, which offers some protection from the virus.
However, the rollout of second doses has been accelerated following concerns about the spread of the Indian variant.
Adults in their 40s will also now only have to wait eight weeks – as opposed to 12 – between the first and second jab. The decision matches the rules for those over 50.
The NHS will contact those now eligible for their second jab sooner – although many have ‘fast-tracked’ their second dose appointment by logging onto the NHS website.
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, while a different study found that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine provided a "very high" level of protection (90 per cent) 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.
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.
What about the new variants of coronavirus? Will the vaccine still protect us?
The emergence of new Covid-19 strains, such as the South African, Indian (or Delta) and Brazilian variants, have threatened to undermine the vaccine and testing gains of recent months.
PHE estimates that the Delta strain is 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent or Alpha variant, with cases doubling every four and a half days in some parts of England.
The delay of full reopening on June 21 is said to be caused partly by the news that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs give only 33 per cent protection after one dose, compared with up to 80 per cent protection against previous variants.
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.
In 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.
The number of cases associated with variants of concern in the UK
In an interview with The Telegraph, Nadhim Zahawi, the business minister, 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.
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