Teachers and police officers are set to be given priority Covid vaccines after over-50s have been jabbed by the end of April.
The news comes as Britain is on course to hit its target to offer all those in the top four priority groups – including everyone over the age of 70 – their first dose of the vaccine by Monday.
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A total of 13.5 million people have already had their first jab, with 524,000 getting having received their second Covid vaccine.
From next week, the vaccination programme will begin working its way through the next five groups.
It will start with those aged 65 to 69, then under-65s with underlying health conditions before moving through age groups down to 50.
Ministers have said all these groups should receive their first jab by the end of April.
It has now been revealed that Whitehall sources said key workers such as teachers and police are likely to be among those given early access to the jab, reported The Telegraph
The Government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) is expected to make recommendations in the week beginning February 22 as Boris Johnson issues plans to ease lockdown, starting with the return of schools.
But sources said there was a “clear focus” on giving early priority to key workers including teachers and police.
One told The Telegraph: “The JCVI will need to see the latest data on transmission before they make their recommendations, but we have been clear that there are two things – firstly protecting those most at risk of hospitalisation overall, largely as a result of age, which is what the first cohorts cover, and then looking at those whose roles increase their risk.
“The transmission data will inform the exact recommendations, but it is clear that teachers and police will be given early priority.”
The news comes as some police officers have been told they can get vaccinated at clinics that have spare shots – but only if they don’t wear their uniforms.
An internal memo advised police staff they must wear plain clothes so as not to attract attention and be seen to receive preferential treatment that would contradict the Government’s decision not to prioritise police at this time.
Meanwhile, a top medic has warned Covid rules should remain in place “until the adult population is vaccinated”.
Dr Susan Hopkins said that each phase of easing coronavirus restrictions would need to be watched “very carefully”.
The Covid-19 strategic response director at Public Health England said we will need to “watch very carefully as we ease up in these national restrictions,” taking time to “watch and monitor at each phase”.
She told Sky News: “I think that once we get to a very low level of community, we will need to have ongoing measures in place until the adult population are vaccinated.
“What those measures are, we will have to watch and see, but I think it is really important that we keep the rates as low as possible for as long as possible this year.”
‘ALL OF THE ADULT POPULATION’
Asked whether the summer would be more restricted than last year, she said: “I think it is really difficult to say.
“Some of the weeks last year there was really, really low amounts of infection, less than two in 10,000 people were infected at one point in the summer.”
The infectious disease expert added that what we have learnt is “when people go on holidays, perhaps they drop their guard a bit”.
“Perhaps they mingle a bit closer, and they mingle in groups, and that may be one of the areas where spread of infection can occur.
“So I think we are going to have to have some measures in place until the whole population are vaccinated, at least all of the adult population.
“And even then I think we will need to know more about transmission before we can release everything and get back to life as it was.”
It comes after furious MPs hit back at calls for the UK to delay relaxing lockdown – and begged Boris not to backslide on his timetable.
Scientists publicly called for the PM not to ease lockdown measures yet, and to delay it until the number of cases was in the thousands.
Sir Jeremy Farrar said infections must fall to 10,000, a huge 75 times lower than the level he estimates is present at the moment.
The director of the Wellcome Trust said earlier: “Transmission is still incredibly high in the UK. If transmission were still at this level and we were not in lockdown, we would be going into lockdown.
“We’ve got to get it lower, we’ve got to get it – in my view – into the single thousands before we can possibly think of lifting restrictions.”
But Tory MPs slapped down his calls – saying that once the main bulk of the vulnerable were vaccinated, it was vital that the country started to get back to normal.
Steve Baker MP, said earlier: “Having a full public debate is essential at this time but I fear senior scientists are failing to recognise their power to spread despair and despondency.
“Some seem to be floating untested hypotheses in the media. Doing so is not science. It is the death of science.
“I look forward to the Prime Minister’s 22nd February roadmap out of restrictions so that we can all reclaim our lives once and for all.”
Meanwhile, Matt Hancock said earlier today that Britain is on course for an “easier” exit from lockdown because Brits are flocking to get Covid jabs in “incredible” numbers.
The Health Secretary revealed uptake of the vaccine has been “far, far higher than expected” raising hopes over the longer term scaling back of restrictions.
He said the Government had been working on the assumption three-quarters of people would get the jab, but the figure two months into the rollout programme is north of 90 per cent.
Take up has been particularly high amongst 75-79-year-olds and stands at an an “absolutely incredible” 96 per cent, he added.
Last night Boris Johnson made a public appeal for anyone who was in the top cohorts and hadn’t had the jab to come forward and take it now.
Around two million still need to be jabbed in that cohort, he said, an areas the size of Birmingham.
The more people that are vaccinated, the more ministers will likely be able to reopen the economy and get life back to normal in the weeks to come.
Mr Hancock did not suggest today the Government is planning to accelerate plans that have already been announced, such as the March 8 reopening of schools.
But his revelation that the UK is ahead of where it expected to be on jabs take up will boost hopes for the longer term relaxation of restrictions.
The Health Secretary was asked what percentage of people need to have taken the vaccine for the easing of restrictions to go ahead.
He told BBC Breakfast: “The assumption we had going into the vaccine programme was 75% of people would take the jab, and we’re now well over 90%.
“So that has gone far better than my most optimistic projections, and I’m quite an optimistic kind of guy.
“That has gone really very well and that of course does make it easier safely for us together to come out of this.
“The difference between say 80% of people taking this up and 90% is that you actually halve from 20 to 10 the number of people who are unprotected.
“These extra few percentages really, really matter because they reduce the number of people who are not protected.”
He added: “Every extra percent we get reduces the number of people who are not protected and that is crucial to how effective the overall rollout is.”
Mr Hancock said early evidence shows the vaccine reduces transmission of the virus by around two-thirds.
He said: “So that means taking the jab not only protects you, it protects those around you as well.”
Last week HOAR revealed the hated 10pm curfew will not return when pubs finally reopen in May.
The PM has ordered “a simplification” of rules meaning punters will not have to buy a scotch egg to get served – but revellers will be encouraged to drink outdoors.
Ministers have pencilled in a return for takeaway pints in April, and with pubs and bars able to reopen fully a month later.
But big groups will have to stay in beer gardens and on pavements to begin with as “ventilation is key”.