MORE than 800,000 Brits have been bumped to the head of the Covid jab queue after being deemed extremely vulnerable.
They are among 1.7 million people added to the shielding list by a new risk calculator.
More than 800,000 Brits have been bumped to the head of the Covid jab queueCredit: Press Association
Hopes soar that all 32 million over-50s could get the Covid vaccine by the end of MarchCredit: Simon Jones – The Sun
The model, developed by Oxford University, looks at several factors that influence Covid outcomes such as weight, sex, ethnicity and living in a struggling neighbourhood — not just poor health.
Just over half of this new group have already been jabbed, with GPs ordered to vaccinate the remaining 820,000 as a top priority.
The sudden move comes as hopes soar that all 32 million over-50s could get the Covid vaccine by the end of March — one month ahead of the target.
That would mean another 17 million Brits receiving jabs over the next six weeks while some start to get their second dose.
But teachers and police officers are not expected to head up the priority list when the second phase of immunisation starts in spring.
Yet in further proof the vaccination blitz is working, nearly half of older adults were found to have built up immunity against Covid by late January.
Health bosses say letters are already being sent telling the newly categorised high-risk Brits how they can get immunised.
Officials claim the move will see them have an initial dose up to ten days earlier than first scheduled.
Around 2.3 million people were already on the shielding list in England, which has now expanded to four million.
Government advice states they should all stay at home where possible and avoid shops — but they do qualify for additional support, such as medicine deliveries and priority supermarket slots.
Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “For the first time, we are able to go even further in protecting the most vulnerable in communities.
“The model’s data-driven approach to medical risk assessment will help the NHS identify further individuals who may be at high risk from Covid-19 due to personal and health factors.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said supplies are expected to surgeCredit: AFP
Government advice states the vulnerable should all stay at home where possibleCredit: Getty Images – Getty
“This action ensures those most vulnerable can benefit from both the protection that vaccines provide and from enhanced advice, including shielding and support, if they choose it.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said supplies are expected to surge with “tens of millions” of doses rolling off the factory lines over March and April.
But Downing Street insiders cautioned against overestimating how fast the UK can dole out jabs and are sticking to the target for all over-50s to be immunised by the end of April.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is expected to finalise its recommendations next week.
Calls have been made to prioritise key public workers in a bid to keep schools running and reduce potential spread. But sources say experts will likely opt to continue the programme by age as it is the biggest risk factor for severe Covid illness and death.
The JCVI is also considering prioritising certain ethnic groups.
‘IF PEOPLE ARE UPSET, SO BE IT’
A health source explained: “People in their 40s are being hospitalised, so it makes sense to vaccine them next.
“Age is still the main factor for poor outcomes — it is the fairest and simplest way.
“Ethnicity is also being looked at closely and some groups may be prioritised to reduce risk — but it seems unlikely there will be any exceptions for occupations. If some people are upset, so be it.”
Research by the Office for National Statistics shows 41 per cent of over-80s in England had protective antibodies against the virus by February 1.
It is more than double the wider population, with 19 per cent showing signs of immunity.
Covid antibodies normally appear in the blood around two weeks after infection or vaccination.
Dr Jenny Harries says ‘we are able to go even further in protecting the most vulnerable’Credit: PA:Press Association
Esther Sutherland, principal statistician for the Covid-19 Infection survey, said: “Antibody positivity rates have increased across all four nations and the effects of the vaccination programmes have begun to appear, especially in older groups.
“In England, those aged 80 and over currently have the highest percentage of antibody positivity.”
It comes as the number of weekly registered Covid deaths fell for the first time since Christmas.
ONS data shows there were 7,320 virus-related fatalities in the week ending February 5. This is a fall of 1,113 deaths — around 13 per cent — compared with the previous week.
The Government said yesterday a further 799 people had died within 28 days of testing positive, bringing the UK fatality total to 118,195.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show that there have now been 137,000 deaths involving Covid-19 within the UK.
A further 10,625 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK takes the UK total to 4,058,468.
Department of Health figures show daily infections dropped by 14 per cent compared to the same time last week. And Covid deaths had also dipped by 25 per cent on Tuesday, when there were 1,052.
- TO calculate your personal coronavirus risk using the Oxford University calculator, visit: qcovid.org.
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