Covid-19 UK: NHS under pressure to expand Covid vaccine roll-out to all adults
NHS bosses were today urged to expand the coronavirus vaccine roll-out to younger adults in England immediately, with Moderna‘s jab set to arrive next week.
With health chiefs expecting supply to be short in April, clinics dishing out jabs have been told to temporarily halt first-time bookings.
Focus is now on mopping up adults who are eligible for a jab but yet to take up their offer, as well as ensuring millions of elderly people get their crucial second dose.
But critics say there’s no reason why NHS England can’t open up the official drive to under-50s next week when Moderna’s jab is shipped across the country. Northern Ireland has already began inviting over-45s for their jab.
Moderna’s vaccine — proven to be up to 94.1 per cent effective at blocking symptoms in trials — is a two-doser.
It means supplies can only currently be given to unvaccinated people because drug regulators have yet to approve a mix-and-match policy for jabs.
The Adam Smith Institute think tank says England has almost vaccinated everyone in the top nine priority groups, since the roll-out began in December.
It means clinics will inevitably running out of people to invite, especially as ministers know they will never convince everyone to have a jab.
The NHS is coming under pressure to expand the Covid vaccine roll-out to all adults in England, with Moderna’s jab set to give the drive a boost from next week. Pictured: Moderna’s vaccine is used in Athens, Greece, today
James Lawson, of the ASI, told MailOnline: ‘We’re now at a point where we’ve almost completely vaccinated the entire Phase One group, thereby preventing 99 per cent of mortality.
‘On top of that, we’ve got additional supplies inbound.
‘With Moderna supplies coming to our shores any day, we will have a third vaccine in our armory and hope to see a supply boost.
‘We need to be expanding the campaign to all adults and ramping up distribution so we are using every last dose available as quickly as possible. We want to avoid any wastage or spare slots.
‘We would of course keep a priority lane for those in the Phase One group, to get their first dose if they missed it for any reason and they should all be booked in for their second dose.
NHS England’s latest data shows that up to 93 per cent of over-50s — the last of the priority groups — had been given at least one dose of the vaccine by March 28
The government is aiming to offer all over-50s one dose of vaccine by middle of the month before lockdown is lifted
For the first time, today’s figures also showed the uptake rate in under-65s who are classified as vulnerable or carers
Moderna joins the fight
The Moderna jab is, like the Pfizer vaccine, based on mRNA technology which involves injecting synthetic fragments of genetic code that instruct human cells to build the distinctive ‘spike’ protein found on coronavirus particles.
These new spike proteins cannot cause infection, but their presence enables the immune system to recognise Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus particles as dangerous invaders – and so attack any they come across.
Moderna is a fledgling American company and the vaccine is its first approved product. In the US, 64.3million doses have been given.
Like the Pfizer jab, it must be kept at sub-zero temperatures during transportation and storage, but only at minus 20C rather than minus 70C for Pfizer.
The Government has ordered 17million doses, and the EU has 310million, with an option for another 150million in 2022.
‘As well as avoiding wastage, we need to maximise distribution to help counter the spectre of the third wave that is rising across the channel.’
NHS England’s latest data shows up to 93 per cent of over-50s had received at least one dose of the vaccine by March 28.
But uptake rates have been wildly uneven, with MailOnline analysis showing parts of London have vaccinated less than two-thirds of the cohort while the rate is above 90 per cent in half of England’s councils.
Scotland’s chief medical officer revealed Moderna would come on stream from next week.
Dr Gregor Smith said the company’s vaccine would be used alongside jabs from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, according to the BBC.
The UK is initially expecting 500,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine. No10 has order 17million doses from the company in total.
Moderna’s vaccine — which has already been deployed in the US and Europe — is being manufactured by the Swiss-based Lonza biotech company.
It comes after the roll-out was expanded to over-45s in Northern Ireland this week.
The country’s health minister Robin Swann saying he hoped the drive would be extended to over-40s ‘within days’.
Wales and Scotland have not yet moved on to the next phase of the roll-out.
In response to calls to expand the roll-out, the Department for Health and Social Care told MailOnline: ‘Our vaccination programme continues to make phenomenal progress – with over 35 million vaccines administered so far.
‘We remain on course to offer a first vaccine to all those aged 50 and over by mid-April and all adults by the end of July.’
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