The JCVI set out its final recommendations on phase two of the vaccine programme on Feb 26, concluding that those aged 40-49 will be first in line to receive a vaccine invite.
Those aged 30-39 and 18-29 will then be next to be invited, with the Government aiming to have all adults vaccinated by the end of July, raising hopes for the possibility of outdoor events and holidays in August.
However, advice on vaccines for those in their 30s could change during the rollout of the programme, the deputy chairman of the JCVI has suggested.
Prof Anthony Harnden said safety data will be examined “in scrupulous detail” before the programme is rolled out to the under-40s. The scientist said “everybody should remain confident” in the vaccine programme – which he said was going “full steam ahead” – adding that any link with blood clots was a “very, very rare, extremely rare safety signal”.
Plans for children to start getting the Covid vaccine as early as August could also be delayed after the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trial was suspended in children out of ‘exceptional caution’.
The trial has been paused by Oxford University while regulators at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) investigate a potential association between the jab and a rare form of blood clot in adults.
A spokesperson from the university said in a statement: “Whilst there are no safety concerns in the paediatric clinical trial, we await additional information from the MHRA on its review of rare cases of thrombosis/thrombocytopaenia that have been reported in adults, before giving any further vaccinations in the trial.”
The trial began in mid-February and is aimed at testing the vaccine in more than 200 young people aged six to 17 years.
It comes as a new study by Pfizer suggested that their Covid-19 jab is “100% effective and well tolerated” among children aged 12 to 15. Pfizer said it now plans to seek approval for use of the vaccine in this age group from regulators around the world and hopes youngsters will start to receive the jab before the next school year.
No occupations will be prioritised in the next phase of the roll-out. The JCVI has considered whether groups such as teachers and police officers should be vaccinated next, but concluded that the most effective way to prevent death and hospital admission is to carry on prioritising people by age.
Why is there a delay between the first and second jabs?
Regulators have said the key to success will be to administer two full doses between four to 12 weeks apart, in order to give as many people the initial dose of the vaccine as possible, which offers some protection from the virus.
A study found a single dose of the Oxford vaccine was 76 per cent effective in fending off infection between 22 days and 90 days post-injection, rising to 82.4 per cent after a second dose at that stage. Researchers involved in the trial said the findings support the decision made by the UK to extend the interval between initial doses and booster doses of the shot to 12 weeks.
While a different study found that a single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine provided a “very high” level of protection from Covid-19 after just 21 days, without the need for a second “top-up” vaccination.
The UEA study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, looked at data from Israel where the vaccine has been rolled out. Scientists found the vaccine becomes 90 per cent effective after 21 days – supporting UK plans to delay the timing of a second jab.
While it is not yet known how long immunity lasts beyond 21 days without a second dose, researchers believe it is “unlikely” to majorly decline during the following nine weeks.
It comes as vaccine side-effects are seen up to three times more often in people who have previously been infected with coronavirus, new figures show.
The latest data from the King’s College ZOE app, which has logged details from more than 700,000 vaccinations, found those with a prior infection were far more likely to report side-effects than people who have not had the virus.
More severe side-effects are often a sign of better immunity, and emerging research suggests just one dose of vaccine gives a similar protective effect to two doses in people who have had a previous infection.
Experts have now started to question whether people with prior immunity from a natural infection need a second dose at all.
Read more: From transmission to efficacy, the Oxford, Pfizer and other Covid vaccines compared
How will I be invited to get the vaccine?
The NHS will contact you when you are eligible for the vaccine and you will be invited to make an appointment.
If you are registered to a GP, you will be contacted by your surgery either over the phone, by text, email or post, in order to book in to receive a vaccine at your local vaccination centre.
You can still register at a GP surgery if you are not already registered to one, and it is advised that you make sure that your contact details are up to date to ensure that there are no delays.
However, if you are over 70 and have not yet received the vaccine, the government urges you to contact your GP.
Three modes of delivery
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there would be “three modes of delivery”, with hospitals and mass vaccination centres along with pharmacists and GPs offering the jab.
In total, 250 active hospital sites, 89 vaccination centres, and around 1,200 local vaccination sites – including primary care networks, community pharmacy sites and mobile teams – have been set up to ensure every at-risk person has easy access to a vaccination centre, regardless of where they live.
Sites across the country have been transformed into vaccine hubs and started administering vaccines from Jan 25.
Some of these venues include ExCel in London, Villa Park in Birmingham, Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester and Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey.
Mr Johnson has promised that vaccines would be available to people within 10 miles of their home. For a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccine will be brought to them via mobile teams.
Alongside the three modes of delivery, the Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi has said that there is potential that the vaccine could be administered in the form of a pill.
Receiving a vaccine dose in pill form could help alleviate supply issues that have hindered the rollout in some areas of the world including Europe.