Healthy adults aged 45 and over are now being called up for their Covid-19 vaccines in England.
The UK government had an aim of ensuring everyone aged 50 and over was offered their vaccine by April 15 – a target it managed to meet. The Joint Committee on Immunisation and Vaccination (JCVI) said once the over-50s had been given their first dose, those aged 40-49 would be next in line.
The news that under-30s will be offered a different vaccine to the AstraZeneca jab (where possible) left some questioning if the vaccine schedule would stay on track. After all, around 8.5 million people will need to be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead – and that’s not a small group.
So, does this mean the end of July deadline for all UK adults to be offered the jab will be pushed back? For now, the answer is no. The government confirmed to HuffPost UK it stands by its end of July deadline date.
So far, more than 32 million first doses and over seven million second doses have been issued in the UK. At the end of March, the government said half of the UK’s adult population had been vaccinated.
There are thought to be more than 66m people living in the UK – this includes about 12m children (aged 16 and under) who are not yet eligible for vaccines. That leaves around 54m adults who need to be vaccinated with two doses. If we’ve already issued 32m first doses, we’re left with 22m people waiting for their first dose in the next few months.
Different countries within the UK are working at different timeframes, which makes things slightly more complicated. For example, the NHS in England has only recently finished the over-50s group, while in Scotland, it is still working through those aged 50 and over, as well as younger people with underlying conditions. Meanwhile Wales and Northern Ireland are already working through vaccinating those in their forties.
Here’s a rough timeline of how the Covid vaccine programme could pan out in the coming months.
From Tuesday April 13, people over the age of 45 were invited to book their Covid-19 vaccine. The site crashed shortly after it was announced, and people were then put into a queue to book their vaccine.
It’s likely many of the doses issued in April will be among those who are expecting a second dose. This is due to a large batch of AstraZeneca vaccines needing to be retested and a delay in a shipment from India.
That said, the rollout of the Moderna vaccine – which was first rolled out in Wales, but is now also being used in England – will mean others can get their first dose.
If you’re between 40 and 49 – without an underlying medical condition – you’re likely to have your first jab in the second half of April, into the beginning of May.
Based on the rate people have been vaccinated so far, it could be fair to assume the 40-49 cohort might’ve been jabbed by the end of May. However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) would not provide a rough timeframe when HuffPost UK asked.
It’s hoped supply will be back up and running by May, and in addition to the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs, the NHS will also be rolling out the Moderna vaccine more widely.
Two other vaccines are also being assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that could help speed things up. According to reports, Novavax could be approved for use soon, while the Johnson & Johnson jab (a single dose shot) is also awaiting approval.
Based on how quickly the vaccines have been issued so far in 2021 – and the impending deadline of getting everyone invited for vaccination by the end of July – those in the 30-39 bracket could be called up for the jab in June if they don’t have an underlying health condition.
All being well, it makes sense that the last group to be vaccinated – the 18-29 year olds – are likely to be waiting until the end of June, and into July, to get the jab – depending on how quickly the vaccines are rolled out in the earlier months.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News 1.6m of this cohort have already received their first jab (because they have underlying conditions or are unpaid carers). He said the remaining 8.5m would be able to say if they would prefer to have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine when the time comes – saying there will be enough of each to go around.
The change has been made because the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) altered its recommendations for the under-30s over a very rare risk of blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Even with the change in guidance surrounding the under-30s, and the various delays in shipments throughout April, the government says it’s on track to offer jabs to all adults over the age of 18 by the end of July.
“When people are called forward, they should get their jab,” a spokesperson said. “Vaccines are the best way out of this pandemic and provide strong protection against Covid-19.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.