MAJOR steps in the lockdown easing come as the NHS rushes to vaccinate people in their 40s.
Experts have suggested some people in that age bracket will die from Covid while waiting for their jab, as a surge in cases is expected.
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The NHS is moving into vaccinating people in their 40s. Pictured: Caroline Nicolls receive an injection of the Moderna vaccine at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, Berkshire, April 13Credit: PA
The Government has already successfully offered everyone in phase one their jab, protecting the most vulnerable in society.
From today, the vaccine programme is moving into phase two – the general population aged between 18 and 50 years old.
Professor Jeremy Brown, a member of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), warned ten to 15 per cent of Covid hospital patients are aged between 30 and 50 years old.
“So we need to vaccinate the 40 to 50s because that’s where most of those hospitalisations were concentrated,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Others who catch the coronavirus are at risk of long Covid – persistent symptoms ranging from fatigue and hair loss, affecting all ages.
Prof Brown said this “significant issue” was a reason for young people to accept their jab offer, as well as to reduce the risk of giving the virus to their family.
He said if the “control of the virus is lost”, there could be a “big third wave” of Covid with potentially 30,000 to 50,000 deaths.
Asked if there was really a potential of a third wave with up to 50,000 deaths, James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and professor at the University of Oxford, said: “It remains a possibility until, as you heard Professor Brown say, vaccination spreads into the younger population.
“It’s simply that there are so many young people, if you get a large uncontrolled spread in them, some of them will die.”
A surge of Covid in young people is expected as lockdown eases. Pictured: Pub goers (left) Gabriella Lucena 24 and Gabrielle West 28 enjoy a pint and a soft drink along the Thames at Hammersmith, West London, April 12Credit: LNP
Young people waiting to shop on London’s Oxford Street, April 12Credit: LNP
The progress of the vaccine programme coincides with the Government’s roadmap to normality.
The next phase of reopening in England, expected to be May 17, will see the rest of indoor hospitality opened and rules on mixing with family and friends will largely be relaxed.
But at this point, there will still be millions of younger people without their first dose.
University of Bath’s Prof Andrew Preston said even with Covid safety measures, hospitality could drive infection rates.
He told The Sun: “From the scenes yesterday and today, it does look like there is a great appetite for a return to socialising.
“So yes, there is considerable scope for a large number of infections still to come, and vaccination is perhaps the one tool we have to prevent those infections from causing large numbers of illnesses (or worse).
“There is a concern that the messaging can make it seem that Covid is a disease only of the over 50’s. This is not the case.
“The fatality rate for those under 50 is not zero. The rate of infections leading to severe disease and long Covid among the under 50’s is still significant as even a small percentage when multiplied by the many millions yet to be vaccinated equals a large incidence of potential disease.”
The chief medical officer has previously said a surge in cases in younger groups will be “inevitable” as a result, although it is difficult to predict when.
Prof Chris Whitty said: “All the modelling suggests there will be a further surge and that will find the people who either have not been vaccinated, or the vaccine has not worked.
“Some of them will end up in hospital, and sadly some of them will die. And that’s just the reality of where we are with the current vaccination.”
The increase could spill into the five to ten per cent of older people – amounting to an estimated 1.3 million people in England – who have either refused a jab or cannot have one.
Boris Johnson admitted today easing of lockdown restrictions will “inevitably” lead to more infections and deaths, despite vaccines.
Young people are significantly less likely to be hospitalised or die with Covid.
But concern comes from the fact that without proper social distancing, mask wearing and other Covid measures, the virus will run rife in younger groups, and some of those cases will lead to severe outcomes.
Scientists have urged young people to get their jab not only for their own health, but to exit lockdown.
Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said young people need to come forward for vaccination “in large numbers” to help “exit this catastrophe”.
He told Sky News: “We’ve certainly got an important job to do to communicate the importance of the vaccination programme to younger people.
“They perhaps have less fear of this disease than older people quite understandably have had, but nevertheless I think people can be helped to understand that the ultimate exit from this catastrophe involves building up immunity in the population.
“We need to get to a point where so many people are immune to it that the virus is left with nowhere to go and that means that younger people do need to come forward in large numbers, as older people have done, in order to achieve that goal.”
Vaccine hesitancy in Britain is highest among 16 to 29-year-olds, according to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Some 12 per cent of people in this age group said they had declined the vaccine, were unlikely to have the jab if offered, or did not know if they would have a vaccination.
This is the equivalent of around 1.2 million people.
Hesitancy was at a close nine per cent among those aged 30 to 49 – the equivalent of 1.6 million people.