Covid vaccine rollout is still on target, ministers pledge

All adults will be vaccinated by the target date of July 31 as the rollout continues ‘full steam ahead’, ministers pledged yesterday.

And officials are confident there are sufficient supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the ten million under-30s who have now been advised not to have the Oxford/AstraZeneca one.

However, some experts suggested that the ‘change of course’ of the programme could still slow down the rollout and may lead to some people having to travel further to get their vaccine.

It is also too early to say whether vaccine hesitancy might increase as a result of the decision to offer the under-30s an alternative jab over fears of very rare blood clots.

And it is not clear whether some of those who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca jab will be deterred from having their second dose – though officials have made clear that they should still have it.

On a visit to Cornwall yesterday, Boris Johnson vowed there would be no delay to the lockdown-easing plans and that he believed the vaccine rollout would continue on schedule.

On a visit to Cornwall yesterday, Boris Johnson vowed there would be no delay to the lockdown-easing plans and that he believed the vaccine rollout would continue on schedule.

On a visit to Cornwall yesterday, Boris Johnson vowed there would be no delay to the lockdown-easing plans and that he believed the vaccine rollout would continue on schedule.

On a visit to Cornwall yesterday, Boris Johnson vowed there would be no delay to the lockdown-easing plans and that he believed the vaccine rollout would continue on schedule.

Officials are confident there are sufficient supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the ten million under-30s who have now been advised not to have the Oxford/AstraZeneca one. Pictured: Practice Nurse Gemma Reid gives pensioners a Covid-19 vaccine at Lichfield Cathedral, Staffs

Officials are confident there are sufficient supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the ten million under-30s who have now been advised not to have the Oxford/AstraZeneca one. Pictured: Practice Nurse Gemma Reid gives pensioners a Covid-19 vaccine at Lichfield Cathedral, Staffs

Officials are confident there are sufficient supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the ten million under-30s who have now been advised not to have the Oxford/AstraZeneca one. Pictured: Practice Nurse Gemma Reid gives pensioners a Covid-19 vaccine at Lichfield Cathedral, Staffs

So far 31.7million people in the UK – more than six in ten adults – have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This means around 21million over-18s are still waiting for their first dose

So far 31.7million people in the UK – more than six in ten adults – have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This means around 21million over-18s are still waiting for their first dose

So far 31.7million people in the UK – more than six in ten adults – have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This means around 21million over-18s are still waiting for their first dose

He said: ‘I don’t see any reason at this stage at all to think we need to deviate from the road map and we’re also very secure about our supply.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘We’re on track to offer a first jab to all adults by the end of July. When you get the call, get the jab.’

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government was ‘confident in meeting our programme targets’.

So far 31.7million people in the UK – more than six in ten adults – have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This means around 21million over-18s are still waiting for their first dose.

With 16 weeks to go until July 31, the UK must deliver first doses at a rate of 185,000 a day – or 1.3million a week – over the next four months.

Current Cabinet Office projections suggest ministers are expecting supplies of 2.7million vaccines a week until the end of July.

However, a significant proportion of these will be used for second doses, which must be given to people within 12 weeks of their first.

Britain today saw its Covid cases dip by a third week-on-week after recording 2,763, compared to the 4,052 from last week

Britain today saw its Covid cases dip by a third week-on-week after recording 2,763, compared to the 4,052 from last week

Britain today saw its Covid cases dip by a third week-on-week after recording 2,763, compared to the 4,052 from last week

But deaths rose slightly after 45 were recorded, which was two more than the same time the week before

But deaths rose slightly after 45 were recorded, which was two more than the same time the week before

But deaths rose slightly after 45 were recorded, which was two more than the same time the week before

First-dose vaccinations have been faltering in recent days and yesterday’s data showed just 85,000 first doses were delivered, compared to 187,000 second doses. However, the NHS is confident it will have enough doses of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs to give first doses to 18 to 29-year-olds.

The UK’s vaccination programme has been bolstered by hundreds of thousands of Moderna jabs, which began being rolled out yesterday.

Officials also hope that two more jabs – Janssen and Novavax – could be approved within weeks. Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, suggested the Moderna vaccine could be reserved for younger people.

Deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said of the new advice for under-30s: ‘Because of our supply situation in relation to alternative vaccines, the effect on the timing of our overall programme should be zero or negligible.’

He added: ‘It is full speed ahead with the UK vaccination programme so we can get life back to normal.’

However, Caroline Casey, from data data analytics company Airfinity company Airfinity, said: ‘In terms of hitting the deadline in July, of the vaccines we would expect to be delivered in July, AstraZeneca would make up about 36 per cent of those.

‘So should AstraZeneca have suspended use in certain age groups that could push the deadline… back to potentially the middle of August according to some of our calculations.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘More than 37 million jabs overall have already been administered, and we are on track to offer jabs to all over-50s by April 15 and all adults by the end of July.’

Magnificent eight – vaccines that could give us a shot at freedom

To help hit the July target, ministers have ordered 457 million doses of eight promising vaccines.

Three of them – Oxford-AstraZeneca; Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – have been rolled out after being approved by the medical regulator. The rest are awaiting approval or in clinical trials.

APPROVED:

Oxford-AstraZeneca

  • 100 million doses ordered, enough for 50 million people.
  • 20 million delivered so far. But under-30s will no longer be offered it.
  • Supplies to reduce in April due because of a delay in delivery of doses from India.

Pfizer-BioNTech

  • 40 million doses ordered, enough for 20 million people.
  • 17 million doses delivered so far.
  • Pfizer is on track to meet its delivery schedule, thought to be around eight million doses in the next two months.
  • However jabs are now being prioritised for second doses. The EU has also threatened to impose export controls on jabs produced at Pfizer’s plant in Belgium, potentially disrupting supply.

Moderna

  • 17 million doses ordered, enough for 8.5 million people. It is the third jab to be approved in the UK, and the rollout began yesterday.
  • So far 5,000 doses have been delivered in Wales, and it will be rolled out in England from April 19.
  • About 100,000 Moderna jabs will be offered every week this month, increasing to 150,000 a week in May.

AWAITING APPROVAL:

Janssen

  • 30 million doses ordered.
  • This is likely to be the next in line for approval in the UK. It is the only single-dose vaccine that is available, and has already been approved in Europe and by the World Health Organisation.
  • Clinical trials show the one-shot jab is highly effective. Doses of vaccine, developed by a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson called Janssen, should be delivered to the UK in the second half of the year.

Novovax

  • 60 million ordered, enough for 30 million people.
  • Ministers are hopeful this jab will also gain approval by the summer. The US firm Novovax is manufacturing its vaccine in Stockton-on-Tees.
  • A clinical trial in the UK found it to be 89 per cent effective at preventing patients falling ill with Covid, which officials said was ‘phenomenal’.

Valneva

  • 100 million ordered, enough for 50 million people.
  • French company Valneva is manufacturing its vaccine in Livingston, Scotland. Clinical trials are ongoing and it will not be approved before the end of the year but could be used as a booster jab.

GlaxoSmithKline-Sanofi

  • 60 million doses ordered, enough for 30 million people.
  • This vaccine is still in development and several months off approval. The EU had pinned its hopes on the vaccine, being produced by French company Sanofi, signing a deal for 300 million doses.

CureVac

  • 50 million doses ordered.
  • The Government has a deal with biopharmaceutical company CureVac to develop vaccines against future variants if they are required. It has placed an initial order for 50 million doses to be delivered later this year.
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Covid itself more likely to cause a blood clot… and you’ve got a bigger chance of being killed in road accident

ByXantha Leatham Health And Science Reporter For The Daily Mail

The incredibly low risk of death from a blood clot after receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was highlighted by experts yesterday.

The chances of developing a clot and dying after getting the vaccine are around one in a million, the latest figures suggest.

Senior scientists have backed the jab, insisting its benefits outweigh the potential risks for the ‘vast majority’ of people.

Official statistics show it is far more likely that a person will be killed in a road collision – or even in an accident at work – than die from the very rare side effect.

The incredibly low risk of death from a blood clot after receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was highlighted by experts yesterday

The incredibly low risk of death from a blood clot after receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was highlighted by experts yesterday

The incredibly low risk of death from a blood clot after receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was highlighted by experts yesterday

Experts have also noted that people are much more likely to develop a blood clot after becoming infected with Covid-19.

More than 20million in the UK have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The experts all agree: Side effect risks are minimal 

Dr June Raine, Head of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the UK’s medicines regulator: ‘The benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risk for the vast majority. Our review has reinforced the view that the risk of this rare suspected side-effect remains extremely small.’

Professor Sir Kent Woods, former head of the MHRA: ‘if there is a connection, it’s a very, very rare one.’

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chairman for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation: ‘The vaccines have saved thousands of lives. The benefit for the majority is clear – if you are offered a vaccine, you should take it.’

Professor Calum Semple, a member of SAGE: ‘it’s a no brainer. Is the vaccine safe? I would say yes.’

Emer Cooke, Director of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European regulator: ‘these are very rare side-effects. The risk of mortality from Covid is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side-effects.’

Johnathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer: ‘If you sail a line across the Atlantic then it’s not reasonable that you aren’t going to have to make at least one course correction.’

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary: ‘The MHRA and EMA have confirmed that the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine is safe. When you get the call, get the jab.’

Paul Scully, Small Business Minister: ‘You’re more likely to have side-effects from taking aspirin then you are with this.’

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Of these 79 developed a blood clot, according to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), placing the odds at one in 250,000.

Out of the 79 cases, 19 died – giving a mortality rate of around one in a million. Only three deaths occurred in people under 30.

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine told a briefing yesterday there was a ‘reasonably plausible’ link between the AstraZeneca jab and blood clots.

But describing the clots as ‘extremely rare’, she said: ‘Based on the current evidence, the benefits of AstraZeneca against Covid-19 and its associated risks – hospitalisation and death – continue to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.

‘Our review has reinforced that the risk of this rare suspected side effect remains extremely small.

More work is needed to establish beyond all doubt that the vaccine has caused these side effects.’

Professor Wei Shen, chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said a recommendation to prefer other vaccines to AstraZeneca for the under-30s was ‘out of the utmost caution’ rather than because of ‘any serious safety concerns’.

Meanwhile, Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chairman of the Commission on Human Medicines, pointed out that catching Covid is more likely to lead to blood clots.

Some 23 per cent of those who end up in an intensive care unit with the virus will develop some form of blood clot, with 8 per cent suffering clots on the lungs and 11 per cent deep vein thrombosis.

He said there appeared to be a ‘slightly higher risk’ of clots in younger age groups after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the reason was ‘not clear’ and further work was required.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam presented graphics illustrating how the vaccine’s benefits compare with risks.

The first, representing a scenario where the number of Covid cases in the population is low, showed that for every age group except those in the 20 to 29-year-old category the potential benefits of the AstraZeneca jab outweigh potential harms.

In the 20 to 29 category, the potential serious harms from the vaccine outweigh the number of ICU admissions prevented.

As a result, the threat from the jab is higher than that from the virus, which explains why those under 30 will now be offered an alternative vaccine.

Other graphics showed that as the exposure risk increased – up to roughly the same level as at the peak of the second wave – the benefits of the jab outweigh the risk in all age groups.

Professor Van-Tam said it would be ‘absurd’ to withhold the vaccine for those over 29 as the benefits clearly outweigh potential adverse effects.

Other scientists have pointed out the chances of a woman developing a blood clot through taking the contraceptive pill can be as high as one in 100.

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