A decision on which groups will be prioritised for vaccines in the second phase of the rollout is expected by mid-February
The UK’s vaccines minister has said that he is hoping to target key workers in the country such as police officers, shop workers and teachers in the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Officials have been prioritising the over-80s so far, as well as NHS staff, and the residents and staff of care homes in the UK as they are classed as being the most vulnerable.
This comes after the NHS is considering plans to discharge it’s patients into hotels as the nation’s hospitals become packed with COVID-19 patients, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now confirmed, saying that it was “impossible to know” how long the nation-wide lockdown restrictions might last.
Nadhim Zahawi, the government’s vaccines minister, told Sky News that while some groups will continue to be prioritised for vaccines “based predominantly on age and vulnerability” to the coronavirus, the second phase of the vaccine rollout could see the jabs being given to those who are the most likely to come into contact with the coronavirus at work.
“My very strong instinct is that those who through their work may come into contact disproportionately with the virus, police, shop workers, teachers… should be prioritised,” he said.
Nadhim Zahawi will be working with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in order to establish who will be receiving the next vaccines, as part of phase two of the vaccine rollout, with a decision expected to be made by sometime in mid-February.
Currently, the order of priority for groups in phase one is:
- Care home residents and their carers
- Those 80 and over, and frontline health and social care workers
- Those 75 and over
- Those 70 and over, and clinically extremely vulnerable people
- Those 65 and over
- People between 16-65 with underlying health conditions which put them at risk of more serious illness from COVID-19
- Those 60 and over
- Those 55 and over
- Those 50 and over
The JCVI has now stated that the “key focus” for the second phase of vaccination in the UK “could be on further preventing hospitalisation”.
But it acknowledged that those at increased risk of catching the virus due to their occupation “could also be a priority”.
“This could include first responders, the military, those involved in the justice system, teachers, transport workers, and public servants essential to the pandemic response,” it said.
This comes after a new mutation of the COVID-19 virus has been discovered in Japan, with health officials in the country saying that it has similarities to that of the recently-discovered highly-contagious coronavirus variants that have been found in Britain and South Africa.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also previously signalled that there is a “good case” for relaxing the allocation by age groups once the most vulnerable people and over-70s have been given the jab.
“Once we’ve got through the clinically vulnerable groups, then we’ve got a debate to have as a nation about where we go next,” he told ITV.
“And I think that teachers and police officers, actually in shop workers have got a good case that they should be next, as opposed to just carrying on through the age range. We haven’t made a final decision.”