UK 'must be cautious' of new coronavirus variants says expert
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The COVID-19 vaccination programme in the UK will continue to rollout vaccines to people by age, it’s been announced today. The independent Joint Committee on vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) published its interim advice for phase two of the programme and explained its reasoning behind the decision.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “The most effective way to minimise hospitalisations and deaths is to continue to prioritise people by age. This is because age is assessed to be the strongest factor linked to mortality, morbidity and hospitalisations, and because the speed of delivery is crucial as we provide more people with protection from COVID-19.
“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.”
But Asthma UK has hit back at the decision, saying asthma sufferers should be high up on the priority list.
Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “The decision not to prioritise all people with asthma, who are not already in group four and six, ignores the evidence that they are more at risk of going to hospital with covid and more at risk from long Covid.
“There are thousands of people with asthma who will rightly feel anxious, angry and ignored by the government.
We have been urging the government to ensure everyone with asthma is prioritised in the next vaccine roll out and more than 18,000 people with asthma have signed our petition in support of this. The government must reconsider this decision which is unacceptable and could put people with asthma at risk.”
Public Health England has identified the main factors that increase the risk of catching and becoming seriously ill with coronavirus as:
- being older
- being obese (with a BMI over 30)
- your ethnic background
- a weakened immune system
- having an underlying health condition (including asthma)
- being a man
- your job – your risk level is higher if you work outside your home and come in to contact with lots of people every day
- where you live – if lots of people in your area are infected with coronavirus, it’s more likely you’ll catch it. Find official coronavirus statistics for your area.
Asthma UK’s petition has published a petition at asthma.org.uk.
For now, Asthma UK recommends ways to reduce your risk of caching COVID-19:
- keep your distance from anyone outside your household
- wash your hands often, using soap and warm water, or hand sanitiser
- avoid crowded places and not meeting up with groups of people – either indoors or outdoors
- wear a face covering, if you can
- work from home, if you can.
Calls for key workers, such as teachers and police officers, to be prioritised have also been issued.
Phase two of the vaccination rollout will be given in the following order:
- people aged 40 to 49
- people aged 30 to 39
- people aged 18 to 29
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had called for all teachers to be vaccinated this month, while home secretary Priti Patel wanted all police officers to get a jab in the second phase.
However, the JCVI said on Friday that targeting occupational groups could slow down the rollout as well as leave some vulnerable people at higher risk for longer.
Prof Lim said: “Vaccinations stop people from dying and the current strategy is to prioritise those who are more likely to have severe outcomes and die from COVID-19.
“The evidence is clear that the risk of hospitalisation and death increases with age.
“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.”
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