With most new cases of coronavirus infections now in younger people, the vaccination drive is set to cover anyone over the age of 18
Everyone over the age of 18 within England are expected to be able to book a COVID jab by the end of this week, as the head of the NHS said that a new treatment for infected people is set to be available in the country soon.
The chief executive of the NHS in England, Sir Simon Stevens, said that the health service had hoped to “finish the job” of vaccinating people over the next month.
He told the NHS Confederation conference that: “It is now very important that we use the next four weeks to finish the job to the greatest extent possible for the COVID vaccination programme…
“By 19 July, we aim to have offered perhaps two-thirds of adults across the country double jabs.”
He also said that from today onwards, both 23 and 24-year-olds would be able to book an appointment for their first Covid vaccine.
“I expect that by the end of this week, we’ll be able to open up the National Booking Service to all adults age 18 and above.”
This comes after most lockdown rules will remain in place in England for four weeks after the planned 21 June easing, Boris Johnson has confirmed. Senior ministers have signed off on a decision to delay the lifting of all legal restrictions had been put upon social contact as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Over-18s within both Wales and Northern Ireland can already recieve a vaccination, and people over 30 are eligible in Scotland.
Giving the vaccine to younger adults is important in controlling the recent increase in cases of infection, as most new cases are among this group.
Sir Simon also said at the NHS conference that new treatments for people with COVID-19 were expected within the coming months.
“We expect that we will begin to see further therapies that will actually treat coronavirus and prevent severe illness and death,” he said.
“Today, I’m asking the health service to gear up for what is likely to be a new category of such treatments – so-called neutralising monoclonal antibodies – which are potentially going to become available to us within the next several months.”
The NHS England boss said that community services across the country would be needed in order to deliver the infusion to people before they are hospitalised, typically within three days of becoming infected.
The treatment aims to ‘neutralise’ the coronavirus in infected patients and to prevent serious disease.
Meanwhile, the government’s vaccine drive continues at pace towards the target of providing all adults throughout the nation with a vaccination by the end of July. It’s hoped that millions more can be administered before the new date for easing remaining COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Professor Sir Mark Walport, The government’s former chief scientific adviser, said on Tuesday that delaying the final step out of lockdown was wise, and there could have been a big surge in cases if it had gone ahead.
He told Sky News that “another month will enable many more people to be jabbed and for the effects of those first and second jabs to actually kick in”.
This comes after Novavax has said its COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in protecting against “moderate and severe disease” following its phase three trial results. The American biotechnology company said the trial had shown its vaccine was also 93% effective against circulating variants of concern and variants of interest.
So far, nearly 41.7 million people within the United Kingdom have had a first dose, while nearly 30 million have had both.
And while the hospitalisations in the country have risen slightly in recent weeks, Sir Simon said that COVID patients occupied only 1% of beds in England.
He said that the age distribution within coronavirus patients had “flipped” due to older people mostly having had both doses of the vaccine.
“Back in January, it was 60/40 – 60% of beds occupied by people over 65, 40% (occupied by people) under 65,” he said.
“Now it’s flipped to 30/70, so it’s about 30% occupied by people aged 65 and over 70% by younger people whose prospects are much greater.”