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UK targets early May to offer COVID-19 vaccine to all over-50s

LaToya Harding
·3 min read
Pharmacy staff members prepare COVID-19 vaccines, at STEAM Museum, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Swindon, Britain, January 21, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
Britain has been among the leaders in getting people inoculated relatively swiftly and has recently ramped up its vaccination programme in the country. Reuters/Peter Cziborra

The UK government has set a deadline of early May to vaccinate all people over the age of 50 against COVID-19.

It comes as ministers confirmed that local elections will still go ahead that month as planned.

Britain has been among the leaders in getting people inoculated relatively swiftly and has recently ramped up its vaccination programme in the country.

Almost 11 million vaccination doses had been administered as of Friday and coronavirus infections are beginning to decline across the country, according to several published indicators.

The official estimate of the R number — how many people each infected person then reinfects — is between 0.7 and 1.0 for the UK, with new infections falling by 2% to 5% per day.

On Friday, a further 1,014 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported, taking the total by that measure to 111,264. There were also 19,114 more positive cases of coronavirus recorded, taking the total to 10,971,047.

Matt Hancock, health secretary, said on Friday: “My plan is that we should be able to offer a vaccine to everyone in categories 1-9, that's all the over 50s, by May. Lots of things have got to go right to hit that goal, especially supply, which is the rate-limiting factor.”

The top nine priority vaccination groups, which are set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), also includes people aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions.

READ MORE: UK orders 50 million CureVac vaccines to fight mutant COVID-19 strains

The Cabinet Office also announced that the most vulnerable groups would receive a jab by polling day at the latest.

In a press release, it said: “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.”

The government plans to give councils an extra £31m ($41m) for plastic screens in polling stations and hand sanitiser to make the polls COVID-safe. People who are shielding will be encouraged to vote by post.

Chloe Smith, constitutional minister, said “democracy should not be cancelled because of COVID” and the government was confident the elections could be carried out “in a safe and secure way”.

Seven mass vaccine centres have now opened in England as the government aims to offer vaccinations to around 15 million people in the UK by mid-February.

Ashton Gate football stadium in Bristol, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, the Excel Centre where London's Nightingale hospital is based, Newcastle's Centre for Life, the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, Robertson House in Stevenage and Birmingham's Millennium Point will offer vaccines to people aged 80 and older, along with health and care staff.

It plans to have 2,700 vaccine sites across the country.

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