Who will be next to get the Covid-19 vaccine?

Sadiq Khan and Tony Blair join calls to let young skip the vaccine queue in areas hit by India variant

A doctor wearing sterile gloves prepares a vaccination injection.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The coronavirus vaccine rollout has been extended to people aged 37 today, as the government urges those eligible to get the jab to help stem the spread of the Indian variant.

Clusters of the “double mutant” strain have occurred in 86 local authorities across the country, prompting Health Secretary Matt Hancock to issue a public warning in the House of Commons yesterday that inoculation “will help us all get out of this pandemic”.

Disputes have broken out between local councils and the government over who to prioritise in the ongoing rollout, with The Bolton News reporting that “Bolton Council has been pushing for those aged 18 and over to be vaccinated”.

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The council has now confirmed that “younger people cannot turn up and expect to get a Covid-19 vaccine in Bolton”, the site says, after a local councillor tweeted that “anyone” with a Bolton postcode and a Bolton-registered GP could turn up and be vaccinated.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also called on Hancock and Vaccines Minister Nahim Zahawi to “be nimble” and vaccinate younger people in areas of London that are experiencing a rise in cases triggered by the arrival of the Indian variant.

Khan told Sky News that he has “asked ministers to give us the flexibility to give younger people the vaccine in parts of London where we’re concerned about this strain”.

“We know which parts of our city are a concern. In those particular boroughs, we should be operating a hyper-local approach and encouraging those who are younger... to have the vaccine now to avoid this strain spreading,” he added.

Former prime minister Tony Blair also said there was merit in the idea of surge vaccinations in some areas, telling Times Radio: “There are some areas that will be bigger priorities than others, and it’s probably sensible when you go into those areas not simply to vaccinate the at-risk population which is usually the more elderly of the population, but also to make sure that you’re reaching the younger people as well who can spread it.

“I think that taking a more varied approach to the way we do the vaccine rollout at this stage, given the problems and the challenge of Indian variant, is absolutely sensible.”

On Friday, England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty told a press briefing that as the risk of death or hospitalisation increases with age, “the sensible thing to do is to prioritise the vaccines to those who are most at risk in all the places across the UK”.

“If we took vaccines away from groups in their late 30s and transferred them to groups of people who are 18 or 20 who are at much lower risk of severe disease, the view of the JCVI has clearly been that this would lead to a net disadvantage overall,” Whitty said.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told Sky News that guidance on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could also be changed to speed up the vaccination campaign.

Asked whether guidelines could be amended to see the NHS offer under-40s the UK-developed vaccine again, Finn said: “Yes absolutely, that’s on the agenda, and if necessary that’s something that could be done.

“When we expressed a preference for non-AstraZeneca vaccines for this age group it was done in a very provisional way on the basis of everything going absolutely right. And if the evidence shows that the risk benefit balance for people in their 30s is to be offered that vaccine then absolutely that recommendation will be changed.”

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