All over-50s should be offered a coronavirus vaccine by May, the government has announced.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the ambition on Friday, saying in an interview: “My plan is that we should be able to offer a vaccine to everyone in categories 1-9 – that’s all the over 50s – by May.
“Lots of things have got to go right to hit that goal – especially supply, which is the rate-limiting factor.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman yesterday would only say the deadline was the “end of spring” – and refused to explain whether that could be as late as mid-June.
But the new aim was slipped out by the Cabinet Office on Friday morning, when it announced that the upcoming local and mayoral elections will definitely go ahead, albeit with social distancing and in COVID-secure polling stations.
It confirmed: “The UK’s vaccination programme is planned to have reached all nine priority cohorts by May, meaning that the government can commit to go ahead with these polls with confidence.”
It then seemed the announcement had come out by accident, given Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deputy spokesman said hours later that the press release was sent out “in error” then admitted it was actually “correct”.
Currently, the UK is on group four of nine, meaning jabs can be given to all those aged 70 and over, the clinically extremely vulnerable and care home residents and staff.
The remaining priority groups are:
- 5: All those 65 years of age and over
- 6: Adults aged 16 to 65 years in an at-risk group
- 7: All those 60 years of age and over
- 8: All those 55 years of age and over
- 9: All those 50 years of age and over
Britain’s vaccine rollout has been one of the fastest in the world with the approval of three vaccines – two of which are already being produced and administered.
But given the pace of progress, attention is already turning to what will happen when a large part of the population has been inoculated.
Sky News has confirmed with government sources that plans are being looked at for immunity passports, hoped to allowed Britons to travel abroad if the rules are changed to allow it.
Sweden’s government announced on Thursday it plans to launch a digital coronavirus vaccine passport by summer, if there is an international standard in place by then.
And Denmark also said this week it would launch a first version of the document by the end of February.
So far more than 10 million people across the UK have had their first dose of a COVID jab.
A further 915 coronavirus-related deaths were announced on Thursday, taking the total to 110,250.