United Kingdom

COVID-19: No priority for teachers and police in next vaccine phase as it could slow rollout

The next phase of COVID vaccinations will continue to prioritise people by age and not their occupation to avoid slowing the rollout down.

People aged 40-49 will be the next in line to get a vaccine after all vulnerable groups and the over-50s are covered, the government said.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said this would provide “the greatest benefit in the shortest time”.

It added that prioritising occupational groups such as teachers and police could make the rollout more complex and could potentially slow the programme overall, leaving some vulnerable people at higher risk for longer.

A government spokesperson said: “The Independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has today published its interim advice for phase two of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, setting out that the most effective way to minimise hospitalisations and deaths is to continue to prioritise people by age.

“This is because age is assessed to be the strongest factor linked to mortality, morbidity and hospitalisations, and because the speed of delivery is crucial as we provide more people with protection from COVID-19.

“All four parts of the UK will follow the recommended approach, subject to the final advice given by the independent expert committee.”

Therefore, the priority ordering for phase two will be:

  • Everyone aged between 40 and 49
  • Everyone aged between 30 and 39
  • Everyone aged between 18 and 29

It will begin after all nine priority groups and the over-50s have been offered the jab.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, the COVID-19 chair for JCVI, said “age remains a dominant factor”.

“An age-based programme will be simple, and simplicity has been a cornerstone in terms of speed and success.

“An occupation based vaccination programme has never been tested, trying to switch will be more complex and potentially introduce more delays into the programme.”

He added: “The vaccination programme is a huge success and continuing the age-based rollout will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time, including to those in occupations at a higher risk of exposure.

The government spokesperson added: “The UK government remains on course to meet its target to offer a vaccine to all those in the phase one priority groups by mid-April, and all adults by the end of July.”

The JCVI committee also said the speed of the vaccine deployment was the most important factor in preventing severe illness and death.

People in group five – anyone aged 65 and over – are currently being vaccinated. Some areas have also moved on to group six – adults aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions.

A further 600,000 people who were identified last week as being at additional risk from COVID-19 were on Thursday invited to book a slot at a vaccination centre or pharmacy.

While the number jabs administered has slowed recently, Boris Johnson has said all adults in the UK should be offered their first vaccination by 31 July.

He said everyone over 50 should get their offer by 15 April.

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