Age should decide who gets Covid jab next, says vaccine adviser

Emma Bowden, PA

Age should be the dominant factor in deciding the next phase of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, the head of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said.

Professor Wei Shen Lim told an online audience of doctors that age “dominates by a long way” while underlying health conditions contribute “some increased risk”, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that the Government is set to recommend the next phase of the UK’s vaccine programme continues on the basis of age, rather than prioritising key workers.

The JCVI has not yet published plans on who should be vaccinated beyond the top nine groups, but has faced calls for police officers and teachers to be prioritised in the next stage.

Appearing at an online event on Thursday night, Prof Lim said: “Age dominates by a long way, and almost all the underlying health conditions contribute some increased risk, but not a huge amount of increased risk.”

Prof Lim said that one of the “great successes” of the vaccination programme had been the rate of deployment and this was now the “most important factor”, according to the Daily Telegraph.

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The newspaper also reports that the first “real world” data examining the impact of the vaccination programme suggests both the Oxford and Pfizer jabs cut two thirds of infections and transmissions.

Boris Johnson is understood to be expecting evidence on the impact of the UK’s jabs programme on hospital admissions and deaths by the end of Friday, ahead of setting out his “road map” out of England’s lockdown next week.

Elsewhere, a range of health organisations have told the Prime Minister that guidance on PPE (personal protective equipment) must be updated to reflect the risks to medics and care workers from airborne transmission.

In a letter to Mr Johnson, they said that lives are being put at risk and branded measures to reduce airborne spread of the virus in high-risk health and care settings as “inadequate”.

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The coalition includes the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), British Medical Association, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal College of Midwives, among a number of others.

It comes as Mr Johnson is set to pledge to donate the majority of surplus coronavirus vaccines to poorer nations as he tries to rally world leaders to work together on efforts to combat the pandemic.

He will chair a virtual gathering of G7 leaders on Friday, including US president Joe Biden in his first major multilateral meeting, to discuss the response to the crisis.

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford is set to announce on Friday that stay-at-home restrictions will remain in place for a further three weeks as the youngest children start returning to school from Monday.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown has been after the Stormont Executive decided to keep the majority of restrictions in place until April 1, but some primary school pupils will return to class on March 8.

Elsewhere, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she wants “if at all possible” for the current coronavirus lockdown to be the last, as she stressed that the lifting of restrictions must be sustainable.

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