Nadhim Zahawi says police officers should be in line for Covid jabs
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi says teachers, police officers and shop workers should be next in line for Covid jabs
- Mr Zahawi told MPs it was his ‘instinct’ that workers police should be next in line
- Was speaking to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee
- He added it was ‘only right’ that ministers listen to Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisations
Britain’s coronavirus vaccine minister on Wednesday said it was his ‘instinct’ that police officers, teachers and shop workers should be next in line for a jab after the most vulnerable are immunised.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that the 13million most vulnerable people in England, which includes those aged over 80 and others with pre-existing medical conditions, will be immunised by mid-February.
The current priority list drawn up by the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisations is based largely on age and while social care and hospital staff are near the top, police officers, teachers and shop workers are not yet mentioned.
The JCVI has been told by the Government to come up with a plan for who to vaccinate next by the middle of February.
In December, the body did suggest that key workers and those who have a lot of interaction with the public should be prioritised once over all over-50s have been vaccinated, but said the decision was an ‘issue of policy’.
Nadhim Zahawi, the Government’s minister for Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment, told MPs on Wednesday that it was his ‘instinct’ that the ‘focus’ for who should be next in line should be on teachers, police officers and shop workers.
Britain’s coronavirus vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi on Wednesday said it was his ‘instinct’ that police officers, teachers and shop workers should be next in line for a jab after the most vulnerable are immunised
But he added that the Government would be guided by the view of the experts on the JCVI.
Speaking to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Mr Zahawi referred to the existing priority list, which has nine categories.
At the top of the list are elderly care home residents and their carers, followed by all those aged 80 and over and frontline health and social care workers.
Thousands of Britons who have received their Covid jab ‘will be offered a vaccine passport’
Thousands of Britons who have already received their coronavirus jab will be offered a vaccine passport in a trial taking place this month after ministers flip-flopped over the controversial policy.
The passport, created by biometrics firm iProov and cybersecurity firm Mvine, will be issued as a free app and will allow users to prove digitally if they have had their first or second jab – or no jab at all.
Though the Department of Health said there were ‘no plans’ to introduce vaccine passports, the Government’s own science and research funding agency Innovate UK has already pumped £75,000 into the project.
Mvine director Frank Joshi said the company, which had started working on the passports to demonstrate test results, later acquired more funding to switch into vaccination passporting.
They are followed by all those aged 75 and over; all those 70 and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals; all those aged 65; everyone aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions; everyone aged 60 and over; all aged 55 and over and finally everyone aged 50 and over.
Mr Zahawi said: ‘I think it’s only right and wise to listen to the JCVI because they will look at this in great detail.’
‘The reason they’ve given us the priority list, the nine categories, is because actually the thing you want to do is to cut mortality – people dying from the virus.
‘And we don’t know what impact the vaccines have on transmission
‘The JCVI are best-placed to look at this in terms of looking at where do we go next.
‘Now, my instinct is to say, rightly so that those who are most likely to come into contact with a viral load: teachers, shop workers police men and women would be the highest risk of getting the virus, and therefore they’re the ones we should focus on, but I would very much be guided by the JCVI.’
His comments came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last week that teachers have a ‘very strong case’ to be next in line once those most at risk have been vaccinated.
He said: ‘Of course we are considering, once we have vaccinated those who are clinically vulnerable, of course we are considering who then should be the next priority for vaccination and teachers of course have got a very strong case, as have those who work in nurseries and many colleagues across the House have made that point.
‘We will consider that.’
Last week, Home Secretary Priti Patel hinted that police officers and others on the emergency front line could soon get a jab.
The Home Secretary told Good Morning Britain: ‘I want to see everyone receive the vaccine that’s the imperative of the work that we’re doing.
‘There’s work taking place on those individuals who have occupational exposure to infection. That’s people on the frontline, our nurses, but also teaching professions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that the 13million most vulnerable people in England, which includes those aged over 80 and others with pre-existing medical conditions, will be immunised by mid-February
‘I feel very strongly on our police officers fire officers, people on the front line. The joint committee for vaccination and immunisation are looking at all of that right now and they are working on a programme to ensure that those professionals are given the vaccine.
Mr Zahawi was also branded ‘very annoying’ by MPs on Wednesday for refusing to say how many doses of coronavirus vaccine the UK has available and will get in the next week as the immunisation programme ramps up.
He was speaking alongside AstraZeneca’s UK president Tom Keith-Roach.
Both men said they were unable to talk about any numbers with regards to deliveries of the vaccine, with Mr Zahawi saying it was because of ‘national security’.
Mr Keith-Roach said AstraZeneca – which is manufacturing Oxford University’s jab – had delivered 1.1million doses to the NHS so far and would hit 2million per week ‘imminently’.
Elderly Brits needing second dose of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine may wait even longer than 12 weeks between jabs
The gap between first and second doses of coronavirus vaccines could be stretched beyond the 12-week target, health chiefs said today.
When the Pfizer Covid jab was approved it was on the condition that people would get a second dose three weeks after their first one, as was done in clinical trials.
But UK regulators claimed there was enough data to prove it could be stretched out to three months, allowing No10 to deliver first doses to twice as many people before bigger deliveries of the jabs arrive in spring. Pfizer hit back and said there was no proof the vaccine worked when the two doses were given so far apart.
Now, however, elderly people who have already had their first jabs could face even longer and potentially open-ended gaps between the two doses.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has given approval for the second jab to be given any time after 21 days after the first one, with no outer limit.
And Public Health England’s head of immunisation, Dr Mary Ramsey, today said: ‘It may well be that we can afford to be more relaxed.’
But regulators will only allow the gap to be stretched even further if data shows that protection from the first dose lasts longer than expected.
He said he was ‘confident’ that there would be more than a million doses given out next week but refused to be any more specific.
Labour MP Graham Stringer told Mr Zahawi ‘these answers are very annoying’ as he refused to put numbers to the progress of the vaccine roll-out.
The chair of the science committee, Conservative MP Greg Clark, urged him to ‘be more forthcoming’ in future.
The secrecy around how fast the vaccine doses are being produced means it’s impossible to tell whether Britain is delivering on its pledge to dish out jabs as quickly as it gets them or whether supply issues are truly to blame for the slow start to the huge NHS drive, as ministers have claimed.
Figures suggest more than 150,000 people are now getting vaccinated each day.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Tuesday that around 2.43million people have now had their first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
In the week between Sunday, January 3, and Sunday, January 11, the total number of people vaccinated across the UK doubled from 1,296,432 to 2,431,648, suggesting they were given out at an average rate of 162,174 per day.
Ministers have repeatedly said the manufacturing and quality-testing process, which takes around three months per batch, is the ‘rate-limiting factor’ that is slowing down the process.
They insist the NHS is equipped to give out vaccinations as fast as it can get its hands on them.
And one member of the Government has taken a hands-on approach to making sure this happens – deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was pictured working at the vaccine clinic in Nottingham at the weekend.
When asked by members of the science committee to explain how many doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine were being delivered in Britain, Mr Zahawi tried to deflect the question before saying it was a national security issue.
He said: ‘The NHS plan has built a deployment infrastructure that can handle the volume that the manufacturers can deliver, that’s the assurance I can give you.’
Mr Zadhawi explained that batches of vaccines must be tested both by the manufacturer and then the MHRA before they can be used.
On why he wouldn’t give a weekly number he said: ‘Batches could move week by week because a batch may fail, so it would be, I think, misleading to say to this committee and the house “this is what we’re getting” because the batches do move around and this is part of the supply chain challenge that we have…’
He added: ‘It’s not about wanting to withhold information from a committee, although there is a consideration here because the whole world is looking to acquire vaccines at the moment and the more we say or, dare I say, show off about how many vaccines [or] batches we’re receiving, the more difficult life becomes for the manufacturers.’
Chair of the meeting Greg Clark laughed and said: ‘They’re not going to zoom into the country and confiscate them from us’.
At the end of the meeting, during which Mr Zahawi had repeatedly refused to put numbers on the roll-out, Mr Clark added: ‘We do think that, in keeping with the scientific tradition, that openness and transparency to allow people to be treated as adults and to understand the ups and downs of processes, I think has served us well so far…
‘I hope when it comes to some of these figures, and some of these schedules, that you will find the confidence to perhaps be a little more forthcoming in terms of what’s in store in the future – if we ask questions about it it’s because we have the same interest as you do in making it work.’
Home Secretary Priti Patel revealed on Tuesday that 2.43million people have now had their first dose, up from 2.29m yesterday. Another 20,000 second doses were also added onto the cumulative total
Despite the frosty exchanges, the PM on Wednesday hailed some ‘early’ signs that the brutal national lockdown could be bringing coronavirus under control.
However, he also refused to rule out tightening rules further.
The premier insisted the measures in England were being kept ‘under constant review’ as Keir Starmer demanded to know why they were looser than last spring despite cases being higher.
But Mr Johnson sounded a notably optimistic tone about the emerging impact of the restrictions.
Although he said the situation was ‘troubling’ and accepted the NHS was under huge pressure, the PM said that the country was ‘now starting to see the beginnings of some signs’ that the crackdown was having an effect in parts of the country. He stressed it was ‘early days’ and urged people to ‘keep their discipline’.
MailOnline analysis suggests the outbreak in England could have started slowing before the imposition of the blanket lockdown on January 4, with infection numbers peaking in the worst-hit regions at the start of the year.
The tide appears to have turned in parts of the country experiencing the worst outbreaks – London, the South East and the East of England – in the first week of 2021, with cases coming down since then.
Coronavirus hospital admissions have also started to fall in London and the South East, although the numbers of patients are still rising as the level has been so high.
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