All over-40s could get second Covid jab after 8 weeks to stop spread of Delta variant, experts say

ALL over-40s could get their second Covid vaccine jab sooner to beat the Delta variant, experts have said.

Scotland lowered the age range allowed to speed up their final dose this weekend – and England could do the same.

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Currently only those over-50 in England are able to have their second vaccine eight weeks after the first.

Anyone younger has to wait around 12 weeks to get their full vaccination.

But ministers have hinted the age bracket of those eligible could be lowered.

Experts have said this would "make sense", with Professor Anthony Harnden telling the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "As we move down the age groups, particularly with plentiful supply of AstraZeneca vaccine, it would make sense to shorten that dose interval from 12 to eight weeks."

He added the JCVI is "looking carefully at what the Scottish Government has done", adding "it seems to be a sensible strategy".

Today Health minister Edward Argar said he does not rule out shortening the gap between coronavirus vaccine doses for younger adults in England.

He said: "At the moment, we believe the right thing to do is to shorten the gap for the over-50s, but we are always open to scientific advice.

It comes as the Prime Minister will today announce June 21 won't be the hoped for "Freedom Day".

This is due to rapidly rising cases of the Delta variant, first identified in India, and an increase of hospitalisations.

'GIVE THE VACCINES EXTRA LEGS'

Delaying the full unlocking to July 19 allows an extra 10 million second Covid vaccine doses to be administered, Mr Argar said.

And on Sunday, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, told the Andrew Marr programme the country was in a "race" to "get everyone to two doses".

"If that is the scientific advice, of course we will look at it very carefully – but at the moment the advice we are getting is the approach that we are following, which is the over-50s, and we have got the supplies to do that."

He indicated the government wants to use the additional time to get millions more younger people double-jabbed.

The cautious approach was, he said, necessary to ensure the the unlocking was "irreversible" and that they did not have to "yo-yo back in and out of measures".

This weekend, the Prime Minister told ITV News: "We're looking at all the data but what we're wanting to do is avoid another wave of deaths that could be prevented by allowing the vaccines to work in the way that they are.

"It may be that in the race between the vaccines and the virus, we need to make sure we give the vaccines extra legs."

The latest daily Government figures from Sunday showed another rise in infections with a further 7,490 lab-confirmed cases in the UK – up 2,149 from a figure of 5,341 the previous week.

The data also had England with a total of 35,971 positive tests in the past seven days at a rate of 63.9 per 100,000 people.

In Scotland People over 40 whose second coronavirus vaccine dose is more than eight weeks after their first are being encouraged to seek an earlier slot.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "We are working closely with NHS boards to ensure the number of appointments can be increased in line with national guidance to help combat new variants and provide protection to as many people as possible.

"Boards are boosting their capacity to administer second doses alongside the delivery of first doses to younger cohorts and appointments are now being issued in accordance with the new recommendation of an eight-week gap.

"The second dose is vital in providing greater and longer lasting protection against the virus – particularly the new Delta (Indian) variant.

"In line with the advice from the JCVI, we encourage those whose appointment was already scheduled – which is mainly over-40s at this time – to use the NHS Inform online tool, drop-in clinics or the national helpline to get their second dose appointment as close to eight weeks after their first as possible."

We're looking at all the data but what we're wanting to do is avoid another wave of deaths that could be prevented by allowing the vaccines to work in the way that they are.

Boris Johnson will announce the decision on the June 21 easing of restrictions at a press conference this evening, Downing Street has confirmed.

The Prime Minister will be joined by England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and the Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.

No10 is planning to hold the presser at 6pm this evening but that time could change.

The potential month-long delay means pubs will be restricted to table service, with the return of propping up the bar still some way off.

Theatres and cinemas will continue to be capped at just 50 per cent capacity, and people will be told to continue working from home if they can.

Nightclubs – many of which have been closed since the start of the pandemic – will remain closed.

And gigs will also take a hit, as the current rules allow for capacity limits of 50 per cent – or a maximum of 1,000 people – indoors.

Outdoor gatherings will remain limited to 30 people, meaning summer BBQs and picnics in the park will have to stay small.

The rule of six will stick around for indoor meet-ups, while face masks and social distancing will continue to be enforced.

 

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