Boris Johnson: All over 50s to be offered vaccine by end of April
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Boris Johnson has set the target of giving a first jab to all those in groups one to nine of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s priority list by May. However, the ferocious pace of the rollout means the Government is now on track to hit its target a month ahead of schedule.
Analysis suggests if the current daily rate of first doses is kept up then all over-50s will have received a vaccine by March 25.
Based on the seven-day average, the NHS is giving 429,449 people their first jab every day.
The news paves the way for life in the UK to return to near normality by the summer.
Ministers have repeatedly said vaccine supply is the limiting factor in the speed of the immunisation programme, and there’s a need to give second doses in the coming weeks to those who have already received a jab.
However, last night NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said “we are reserving vaccines” for second doses, implying there is already some stock of jabs for those requiring their booster.
He added supply was set to be increased at the start of next month, with the NHS able to double the number of daily injections.
He said: “In this next phase, this second sprint, we’re going to be vaccinating a larger number of people than in the first sprint.
“Overall, although supply will vary week to week and we’ll have to adjust accordingly, we may be giving up to twice as many vaccinations overall – given we’ve got to be doing second doses as well – than we’ve done in the first sprint.”
The doubling of supply would allow the NHS to continue giving first doses at the same rate it currently is while also dealing with the so-called “second doses deficit”.
Quietly, Government insiders are also thought to be confident of immunising all over-50s by the end of March.
“We didn’t know where we were going to be when these targets were set and we didn’t know how well it would turn out,” a Government source told the Times.
“So there was an abundance of caution.
“If we do it sooner, great.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will next Monday set out his roadmap to end lockdown restrictions in England.
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He’s vowed to lift the Covid rules slowly “because we want this lockdown to be the last. And we want progress to be cautious but also irreversible”.
However, the quicker vaccines are administered to the population, the quicker the number of infections is likely to fall and life can return to normal.
Scientists are this week carrying out a review of the available data to assess the success of the immunisation programme in preventing serious infection and limiting transmission of the virus.
Last night Mr Johnson indicated the research was promising.
He said: “We have some interesting straws in the wind. We have grounds for confidence.
“But the vaccinations have only been running for a matter of weeks – and while we are learning the whole time – we don’t today have all the hard facts that we need.”
Yesterday there were 9,765 new cases of coronavirus recorded in the UK, a 29 percent drop in a week and an 84 percent drop on the peak of the pandemic at the start of January.
Deaths are also continuing to plunge with 4,598 new deaths recorded over the past seven days, a 26.2 percent drop on the week before.
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