Teachers, police officers and shop workers may be moved up vaccine priority list, Matt Hancock says
A senior Government expert, Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said the decision would be taken when researchers establish whether the vaccine prevents transmission via people who mingle with the public, which would mean “a whole new ball game”.
Mr Hancock said “a critical period” had been reached in the pandemic because data over the next few days will reveal if the latest lockdown has succeeded in levelling off the deadly new surge in case numbers, driven by the Kent mutation of coronavirus.
Mr Hancock said ministers would decide on who gets the jab next after receiving research into how successfully the vaccine reduces transmission.
“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.”
Thursday is seen as a possible decision day for Boris Johnson to tighten lockdown rules. Among measures being held in reserve are banning click and collect from stores; curbing the consumption of takeaways outdoors and making masks compulsory in queues outdoors.
“I’m very reluctant to remove this rule because for some people this is a lifeline, for some people who live alone,” he said. “People should not take the Mickey out of the rules and they shouldn’t stretch the rules.”
- More than four in ten people aged over 80 have had the Covid-19 jab, Mr Hancock said
- Footballers were urged to stop embracing on the pitch by health chiefs. Mr Hancock said elite sports should obey “the spirit of the rules”, while deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told LBC Radio: “Every close human contact that is avoidable should be avoided”
- A 24-hour vaccination centre for hospital staff working night shifts is to be trialled, the BBC reported. Mr Hancock said most people wanted to get treated in daylight but added: “We’re absolutely up for doing that if it helps to speed up the vaccination programme
- Social distancing will be needed “for a while yet”, even among those who have received the jab, Professor Harnden warned. “We must be very clear that vaccination will prevent disease in individuals but it may not prevent those individuals from transmission to others,” he told Sky
- Gorillas in San Diego Zoo tested positive for coronavirus. The infection is thought to have come from a member of staff who was asymptomatic. Minks and tigers are among other zoo animals who have contracted the disease but it is the first case in a great ape
- Mr Hancock said the vaccination programme was “on track” to offer appointments for the jab to the 14 million most vulnerable people by February 15.But he confirmed the rollout was being “limited” by the pace of supplies of the medicine.