New variant sparks rush for millions to get jabbed as PM eyes UK vaccine strategy shift
India variant: Expert discusses vaccines that are 'effective'
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Senior ministers were tonight in talks with health chiefs about rushing forward second jabs for people aged over 50 and others considered most at risk from the virus. Any frontline healthcare workers still awaiting their second vaccine dose could also benefit.
Officials say that while there is no evidence that the Covid variant first identified in India is more able to evade vaccines than other strains precautions are under discussion following surges in some parts of the country.
And the Prime Minister yesterday admitted he was “anxious” about the localised spikes in infection rates.
It is understood the Government has sufficient stocks of the Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca and other vaccines to speed up the rollout of second jabs.
A Downing Street source said: “The variant of concern first identified in India is beginning to spread increasingly rapidly in certain areas across the country.
“While there is no current evidence that this variant has any greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine, the speed of growth is concerning and the Government is considering additional action if deemed necessary, including increased surge testing and options around vaccination.
“The Government is considering accelerating second doses for the most vulnerable groups in order to provide the fullest possible protection for these groups sooner.
“Discussions with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunity are taking place on the details of this option, including precise timings, and the Government will set out full details of this option shortly.”
Neil Warnock praises PM over Covid-19 vaccine rollout
Anyone in the top nine priority groups, including everyone aged over 50, who has not yet had a second jab could be entitled to an earlier injection if the move goes ahead.
Mr Johnson spoke of his concerns about the Indian variant during a trip to Durham yesterday as the Government’s Scientific Group on Emergencies (SAGE) met to discuss possible precautionary measures.
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs that has pressed for a rapid end to the lockdown, last night insisted the spread of the Indian variant should not mean a return to draconian restrictions.
In response to reports of the Prime Minister’s concern about the variant, he said: “Why on earth would we lock down when the vaccines continue to break the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths?
“I am glad we are on a one way road to freedom, as the Prime Minister has stated, and freedom from Covid regulations, as the Health Secretary has undertaken to MPs in the House of Commons.
“We were told the roadmap was cautious – in spite of the overwhelmingly promising data on the benefits of the NHS vaccine rollout – precisely so it would be irreversible.”
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