People under-50 will be offered a Covid vaccine in order of age because prioritising key workers would be too complex, according to scientists advising the government.
On Friday the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) revealed its plan for how the second phase of the immunisation programme should be rolled out. The government says all four nations will follow the guidance.
The government hopes to have offered the vaccine to all adults by the end of July.
Phase two will begin once everyone in phase one, which covers all those over 50, health and social care workers, care home residents, and those with underlying health conditions, has been offered a jab.
In a press briefing, the JCVI said the priority for the under-50s should be, in order:
- All those aged 40-49 years
- All those aged 30-39 years
- All those aged 18-29 years
Matt Hancock will host a Downing Street press conference on Friday afternoon and will confirm the government will follow the JCVI strategy.
The latest official figures show 18,691,835 people have so far been offered at least one dose of a vaccine.
The government has been under pressure to give priority in phase two to key workers, such as teachers or police officers, irrespective of their age.
But the JCVI said targeting occupational groups would be more complex to deliver and could slow down the vaccine programme, leaving some more vulnerable people at higher risk unvaccinated for longer.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, the Covid chair for the JCVI, said the the goal of vaccinations was to stop people from dying.
“The evidence is clear that the risk of hospitalisation and death increases with age,” he said.
“The vaccination programme is a huge success and continuing the age-based rollout will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time, including to those in occupations at a higher risk of exposure.”
A government spokesperson said: “All four parts of the UK will follow the recommended approach, subject to the final advice given by the independent expert committee.
“The UK Government remains on course to meet its target to offer a vaccine to all those in the phase one priority groups by mid-April, and all adults by the end of July.”
Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisations at Public Health England (PHE), added the age-based approach would “ensure more people are protected more quickly”.
“Delivering a vaccination programme on this scale is incredibly complex and the JCVI’s advice will help us continue protecting individuals from the risk of hospitalisation at pace,” she said.
“It is crucial that those at higher risk – including men and BAME communities – are encouraged to take the vaccine, and that local health systems are fully engaged and reaching out to underserved communities to ensure they can access the vaccine.”