Next phase of Covid jab roll-out 'to focus on ethnicity, NOT jobs'

Next phase of UK’s Covid vaccine roll-out ‘will focus on ethnicity and NOT occupation’ amid fears prioritising key workers could ‘slow things down’ – as NHS aims to deliver up to 1MILLION jabs a day

  • Government’s jab expects are due to meet today to decide next priority groups 
  • Expected to advise scheme continue to work down the population based on age
  • But members will also urge ministers to consider prioritising BAME groups 

Ministers will be urged to vaccinate people by age and ethnicity rather than their job during the next phase of the coronavirus jab roll-out, it was claimed today.

Number 10’s leading jab experts, who are due to meet this afternoon to finalise their recommendation, are expected to advise that the UK continues with its age-based approach after the nine most vulnerable groups are inoculated.  

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will also urge ministers to prioritise some ethnic minority groups, who are at a disproportionate risk of dying from Covid, The Telegraph reports.

Members are said to be particularly concerned about mortality rates among South Asians, who studies have shown are twice as likely to succumb to the virus as their white peers.

Both Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock have previously said teachers, police officers, shop owners and other key workers could be bumped up the priority list once the top groups have been jabbed. 

But JCVI sources said last night prioritising people based on their occupation would ‘create too much complication’ and ‘risk slowing the roll-out down’.   

Officials have until now been focusing on vaccinating the top four vulnerable groups — everyone over the age of 70, NHS staff, care home residents and workers, and extremely ill adults.

Yesterday NHS England officially moved onto the second stage of the vaccine drive, inviting over-65s and ‘clinically vulnerable’ younger people. The programme will aim to give everyone over the age of 50 their first dose by the end of April.   

NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens yesterday vowed to double the number of jabs being given in order for the Government to hit that target. It could see up to 1million doses dished out each day.  

The joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) will urge ministers to prioritise some ethnic minority groups, who are at a disproportionate risk of dying from Covid, Pictured: A woman gets a coronavirus vaccine in Ealing, West London

Officials have vaccinated the vast majority of the top four priority groups — everyone over the age of 70, NHS staff, care home residents and workers, and extremely ill adults

 

Vaccination rates among white employees were almost double those among black medics at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, data up to February 3 showed

The Labour party and workers’ unions have been campaigning for weeks for the Government to prioritise people based on their jobs once the top groups have been jabbed. 

London mayor Sadiq Khan told the Radio 4 Today Programme this morning: ‘The next phase should include those occupations where…you’re more likely to catch the virus with adverse consequences’.

Ministers have not yet laid out how the jabs will be prioritised once the top nine groups have been jabbed, which includes roughly 32million people.

They are expected to receive recommendations from the JCVI by the end of this week.

The strict ‘stay at home’ message will be ditched by Boris Johnson and the green light given for outdoor sports as the country takes it first steps out of lockdown, it has been revealed.

The Prime Minister will end tough restrictions next month that mean people can only leave their homes for work, exercise or to buy essentials. 

It comes as NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens yesterday vowed to double the number of jabs being given to one million vaccines a day in order for the Government to hit its next target.  

As part of the first major easing, ministers plan to overhaul the rules to allow socialising outside from as soon as March 8. Possibly before the end of March, outdoor leisure activities, including golf and tennis, will be permitted.

As well as transmission risks being low as they are played outside, officials believe the public may be spurred into getting fit if the pursuits are among the first things to be allowed.   

At the same time the Government intends to drops its slogan, ‘Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives’.

At last night’s Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said he wanted ‘this lockdown to be the last’, as he promised to gradually remove restrictions in a ‘cautious but also irreversible’ way. 

While admitting he could not give a ‘cast iron guarantee’ there will be no further lockdowns, the Prime Minister stressed that ‘science is now unquestionably in the ascendancy over the disease’. 

‘I don’t want people to think that I am not optimistic, there has been a big change,’ he added.

Mr Johnson will publish his roadmap for easing lockdown next Monday, which will include target dates for the earliest each of the restrictions will be lifted. 

He is expected to chair a meeting of the Cabinet’s ‘Covid O’ committee later this week to hammer out the details. 

And he will present the blueprint in the Commons on Monday afternoon, before making a televised address from Downing Street in the evening.

Government sources said one of Mr Johnson’s top priorities is to allow more outdoor pursuits as he wants to ‘kickstart the health of the nation’. 

A source on the committee told The Telegraph: ‘One of the main factors behind the success of the rollout so far has been the simplicity of the prioritisation rules because it has been based largely on age.

‘Once you make things more complicated, you run the risk of slowing things down. You create more telephone calls for surgeries to make, while people are bashing on the door demanding a vaccine because they think it’s their turn.’

On whether ethnic minorities should be considered, they added: ‘The mortality figures for people from South Asian backgrounds are particularly worrying. Once we get down to those in their 50s, we want to be reaching out especially to these ethnic minority groups.’

The Office for National Statistics has said black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) people are up to two-and-a-half-times more likely to die than their white peers, even when age, underlying health conditions and other factors have been considered.

Not only are BAME groups at a heightened risk from the disease. they are also less likely to take the vaccine.  

Analysis at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, published yesterday, found that 71 per cent of white staff had received the jab, compared with 59 per cent of South Asian staff and 37 per cent of black staff. 

Asked about jab hesitancy this morning, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said this morning the Government was contending with a ‘tsunami of misinformation’.

He revealed posts circulating on social media had claimed the vaccine interfered with fertility.

Mr Zahawi told Sky News: ‘There is a tsunami of disinformation, misinformation which we have a unit across government that is dealing with the technology platforms to take down some of this fake news in terms of effects on fertility. It does not.

‘In terms of pregnancy you can have your vaccine, of course once you have had a discussion with your clinician to make sure your own physiology allows you to do that.

‘It is one of the issues that Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, addressed last night which is the sort of pandemic itself and a pandemic of misinformation or as I have just referred to it a tsunami of misinformation on social platforms and it is very important that we continue to deliver accurate information in people’s own languages but of course in their communities.’

It came after NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens said the health service was making ‘meaningful progress’ in its drive to boost Covid vaccination rates among BAME people.

Sir Simon admitted at last night’s Downing Street press conference ‘there’s a concern’ among health chiefs about vaccine hesitancy in black and South Asian communities but that it was making extra efforts to get them immunised.

He pointed the finger at ‘a pandemic of disinformation’ which he said was being fought alongside the actual pandemic.

And Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said he would meet with medical chiefs after tonight’s 5pm Downing Street press conference to make sure the message is clear that the risks of vaccines are ‘massively lower’ than of Covid. 

NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens yesterday vowed to double the number of jabs being given to one million vaccines a day in order for the Government to hit that target 

Fury as millions of asthmatics are told they will NOT be prioritised for a Covid vaccine 

Millions of patients with non-severe asthma will not be prioritised for a coronavirus vaccine, the Government confirmed today.

Asthmatics whose condition is under control won’t be offered the jab ahead of their peers, after they were deemed not to be at an increased risk of death from Covid. 

It means only patients who are formally shielding, have been given steroid tablets or have ever had an emergency hospital admission will be prioritised. 

Officials have until now been focusing on vaccinating the top four priority groups — over 70s, NHS staff, care home residents and workers, and extremely ill adults.

But from today, NHS England has officially moved onto the second stage of the roll-out, inviting over-65s and ‘clinically vulnerable’ younger people. 

Older guidance indicated asthmatics who were over the age of 16 and used steroid inhalers would be included in that group.

But the Department of Health said today the change followed independent advice from its expert vaccine group, which ruled they were not at a higher risk of dying from Covid after analysing fatality statistics.

People with mild asthma are still considered by the NHS to be at increased risk of falling ill with Covid. Asthmatics are also thought to be more likely to suffer Long Covid, a series of symptoms that linger long after the initial infection. 

Charities said the Government’s ‘confused messaging’ on the subject has caused ‘needless anxiety’ for asthmatics.   

SAGE warned the Government at the start of the vaccine drive that it would have to make extra efforts to immunise ethnic minority people because they have historically lower uptake.  

Speaking about efforts to vaccinate people in BAME communities, Sir Simon said: ‘There’s a concern about hesitancy on the part of some black and south Asian communities to accept the vaccine offer that they’re receiving, either at work if they’re a health and social care worker or as a member of the public.

‘What is happening about that is that there is a huge effort involving community leaders, faith leaders, the way in which the NHS itself is administering the vaccine programme, to overcome that.

‘And although the start was slower in terms of the uptake in some of those communities, I think we are now seeing meaningful progress. 

‘For example, in Hackney this past weekend we were vaccinating at a mosque and also at an Orthodox Jewish site after Sabbath had finished, vaccinating up until midnight.

‘I was with one of the lead imams this morning in Oxford, who’d arranged for a Zoom with one of the top sheikhs in the world to help explain why vaccines are safe, as well as why they work.

‘So I think this will build momentum and, let’s face it, part of what we’re up against is a dual epidemic – we’re up against the epidemic, the pandemic of Covid, and we’re up against a pandemic of disinformation and the deliberately sowing of m

In a paper published in January by Government advisers SAGE, scientists told ministers that vaccine uptake in the past has been lower in non-white communities.

And they said extra effort should be made to improve this now because of the desperate need to get as many people as possible vaccinated against coronavirus.

Low trust in the health service or scientists, fears about safety and difficulty getting access to vaccines have blighted acceptance rates in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, researchers said.

Further complicating the problem was the fact that the same ethnic groups are more likely to die of Covid-19 than white people, so it is extra important that they get a jab.

SAGE said ministers should make sure there is equal access to for vaccines for all ethnic groups and cultures, and that efforts should be made to produce ‘culturally relevant’ advice, get local community leaders to help explain the science and tackle people’s concerns, and make sure everything is available in multiple languages.

Doctors warned that fake news about vaccines containing meat or alcohol, or changing people’s DNA, is putting Asian people off getting jabs.

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