The government has revealed it wants all over-50s to be reached in the coronavirus vaccine rollout by May.
It is a significant target and the first time a firm date has been put on when all those in the top nine categories on the priority list for a COVID-19 jab will be offered one by.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman yesterday would only say the deadline was the “end of spring” – and refused to explain whether that could be as late as mid-June.
But the new aim was slipped out by the Cabinet Office when it announced that the upcoming local and mayoral elections will definitely go ahead, albeit with social distancing and in COVID-secure polling stations.
It confirmed: “The UK’s vaccination programme is planned to have reached all nine priority cohorts by May, meaning that the government can commit to go ahead with these polls with confidence – and maintain the choice for voters between voting in person or remotely.”
The Cabinet Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the vaccine rollout reaching the over-50s means they should be fully inoculated or just offered their first jab.
Currently, the UK is on group four of nine, meaning jabs can be given to all those aged 70 and over, the clinically extremely vulnerable and care home residents and staff.
The remaining priority groups are:
- 5: All those 65 years of age and over
- 6: Adults aged 16 to 65 years in an at-risk group
- 7: All those 60 years of age and over
- 8: All those 55 years of age and over
- 9: All those 50 years of age and over
Britain’s vaccine rollout has been one of the fastest in the world with the approval of three vaccines – two of which are already being produced and administered.
But given the pace of progress, attention is already turning to what will happen when a large part of the population has been inoculated.
Sky News has confirmed with government sources that plans are being looked at for immunity passports, hoped to allowed Britons to travel abroad if the rules are changed to allow it.
Sweden’s government announced on Thursday it plans to launch a digital coronavirus vaccine passport by summer, if there is an international standard in place by then.
And Denmark also said this week it would launch a first version of the document by the end of February.
So far more than 10 million people across the UK have had their first dose of a COVID jab.
A further 915 coronavirus-related deaths were announced on Thursday, taking the total to 110,250.