Youngsters should not be vaccinated sooner in Covid hotspots to curb the spread of the Indian variant, Downing Street said today.
Health officials were urged to continue making their way down the national priority list – which has now reached those aged 36.
In Bolton, teenagers have been inoculated in a frantic effort to contain the B1617.2 strain. In London, mayor Sadiq Khan has called for ‘flexibility’ to give jabs to younger people in parts of the city linked to the variant, while former PM Tony Blair has said it would be ‘sensible’ to focus on vaccinating the worst-hit areas.
Gavin Carr. A teenager who lives in the UK’s Indian variant hotspot and has received his first jab has said it was an ‘obvious choice’ to get the vaccine as it ‘saves lives’
Members of the public queue to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination centre at the Essa academy in Bolton, northwest England on May 17
Join the queue: Residents in Bolton wait in line for a coronavirus jab at a temporary vaccination centre yesterday
However, opinion remains divided over the issue. No 10 insisted yesterday that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) believes the best way to protect against the new variant is to ensure vulnerable groups get their doses as soon as possible.
Asked whether Covid hotspots would be prevented from giving first doses to younger people, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘We want every part of the country to abide by the advice set out by the JCVI. It’s this unified approach that has allowed us to proceed so quickly with our vaccine rollout.’
The Health Secretary told the Commons that the JCVI priority list is ‘what is most likely to save the most lives’.
Phone call: Kate spoke with Hayley Evans
Hayley Evans is pictured above
Hayley pictured with her grandparents Ron and Pat Wood
When asked about vaccinating all over-18s in Bolton and Blackburn, Matt Hancock said to MPs: ‘I want to be absolutely crystal clear… that is not our approach. I have looked into it in great detail and we have taken clinical advice.
The approach is to make sure we get as many second vaccinations done as possible, as many first vaccinations amongst the vulnerable groups, and then as many vaccinations as possible for those eligible groups who are under the age of 50.
‘The reason that we’ve taken this approach is because that is what is most likely to save the most lives. That second jab is absolutely vital and, of course, the first jab for anybody over 50 could be the difference between life and death.’
Memories: Couple’s 1949 wedding
Ron playing for Worthing
Holding hands: Hayley Evans’s photo
…But Bolton does it anyway
All adults in Bolton were yesterday urged to book a vaccination, with doctors saying they would ‘find a reason’ to given them a jab.
The town is suffering worse than anywhere else in Britain with the Indian variant of Covid – with infection rates at 12 times the national average.
And despite calls from ministers not to invite healthy people aged under 36 for their jab, local medics are now vaccinating teenagers as young as 17.
They inoculated more 6,000 people over the weekend with some recipients reporting that they only needed to give their name, their phone number and which GP they were registered with.
Asked if her staff would turn away someone who turned up at a walk-in vaccination centre and didn’t meet the NHS eligibility criteria, Dr Helen Wall, who is co-ordinating the town’s vaccination programme, said they were ‘going to find reasons to vaccinate people, not reasons not to’.