18/06/2020 17:34 BST | Updated 19/06/2020 08:48 BST

Black, Asian And Minority Ethnic Groups Could Be Among First To Get Coronavirus Vaccine

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the over-50s and people with heart conditions would also get priority.

Executive chair of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding, left, and health secretary Matt Hancock 

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Black, Asian and minority ethnic people could be among the first to get a coronavirus vaccine, health secretary Matt Hancock has said. 

Speaking at the Downing Street briefing, the minister confirmed two groups had been recommended for priority vaccinations when one is discovered and manufactured. 

The joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has said frontline health and social care workers and those “at increased risk” of death or serious illness from Covid, including adults over 50 and those with heart or kidney disease. 

But he added that BAME people could also be included in those to get the treatment first. 

It comes after a Public Health England report found that the risk of dying among those diagnosed with Covid-19 was higher in BAME groups than in white ethnic groups.

Hancock said human trials of a potential vaccine were taking place at Imperial College London and that Astra Zeneca had struck a deal to manufacture a second possible vaccine being developed by Oxford University. 

“Just as we did for testing, we will be guided by the clinical science prioritising those in most need,” he said, adding those named by the joint committee would be among first. 

He added the government would also consider BAME groups as a priority for a vaccine, saying: “As we learn more about the virus we will continue to take into account which groups may be particularly vulnerable – including, for example, those from ethnic minority backgrounds – so that we can protect the most at risk first, should a vaccine become available, and get this country back on our feet as soon as we possibly can.”

It came as the government confirmed it would ditch efforts to develop its own coronavirus contact-tracing app to focus on the model built by Apple and Google. 

Figures published on Thursday also revealed the NHS Test and Trace programme has failed to contact a quarter of people who tested positive for coronavirus since it launched.  

A total of 14,045 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England had their case transferred to the system during the first two weeks of its operation.

According the Department of Health and Social Care, of this total, 10,192 people (73%) were reached and asked to provide details of recent contacts.

The Apple-Google model is reported to have better privacy safeguards, but experts caution that scientists will have access to less data. 

Hancock, who appeared alongside Dido Harding, the executive chair of NHS Test and Trace, said: “We have agreed to join forces with Google and Apple to bring the best bits of both systems together.

“We will share our algorithm and the work that we have done on distance calculation and combine that with their work to deliver a new solution.”

That would “bring together some of the best minds to find a solution to this global challenge”, he added.