Government advisers will set out who they think should be next in line for the Covid-19 jab in the coming weeks, one expert has said.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is currently in discussions over who they believe should be next in line after the initial priority groups.
Plans will be set out by the end of February or early March, said JCVI member Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol’s School of Clinical Sciences.
Meanwhile, Prof Finn encouraged people to get vaccinated when offered after questions have been raised about the efficacy of the vaccine against new variants of the virus, such as the South Africa variant.
Prof Finn said that the vaccines are effective against strains of the virus which are dominant in the UK.
But he also warned that it could take a few months to adapt vaccines to tackle emerging variants.
And he said that the call to “go back to normal” is “false” and people should be prepared to modify their behaviours to limit the spread of disease going forward.
Asked who would be next to be vaccinated after the top nine priority groups, Prof Finn told BBC Breakfast: “That discussion is ongoing at the moment and of course it goes beyond just medicine and public health as to who society values most and who they think are most important.
“In terms of the JCVI, we’re very focused on the evidence of who’s at the highest risk and at the moment the outstanding factor predicting that is still age.
“And of course you need a system that you can operationalise, so you can identify the people and quickly get the vaccine to them.
“So I can’t give you an answer to exactly how that will look.
“But over the coming few weeks we’re making those plans and I think they will have to be announced by the end of February or early March so that we know what we’re doing next.”
He said that it could take months for new vaccines to be created to tackle new variants, adding: “It will take some time, simply because although the new variants can be adjusted in the vaccines they then have to come through the regulators, and then have to be manufactured at scale in order to be available.
“So it’s not a matter of a month or two, it’s probably more than that.
“But we currently have vaccines that are effective against the strains that are predominating in the UK and that should be clear in everybody’s minds, that we’re not in a position where vaccines have suddenly stopped working entirely.”
“The constant call to go back to the normal is probably a false one”⁰
Prof Adam Finn from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation tells #BBCBreakfast vaccines and behavioural changes may be needed long term. https://t.co/MY4rw740fz pic.twitter.com/TNkLP1CctR
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) February 9, 2021
He added: “There is a position in South Africa, not actually just with the Oxford vaccine but with all the vaccines, that a strain has evolved which is relatively more resistant to the vaccine immunity.
“But that’s not the position here, and in fact is not the position that just one of these vaccines is less effective, it’s all of them for that strain.
“The strains that predominate in the UK at the moment are still highly efficiently prevented by the vaccines that we’ve got and we should really continue to move forward and use those vaccines as fast as we can to get an impact on hospitalisations.”
Asked whether the vaccination programme could be similar to the annual flu jab, he added: “I think that is the likely outcome. I think it’s much less likely that will completely eradicate this infection and it’ll just disappear.
“I think it’s more likely it’ll evolve, we’ll kind of learn to live with it. I think we will continue to need vaccines and actually I think we will also probably have to modify our behaviour more broadly, long-term to try and reduce transmission of this and actually other infections as well.
“So the constant call to go back to the normal is probably a false one and I think we’re going to have to now live going forward with the reality of viral infections and and making an effort to avoid passing them around.”