Henry BodkinThu, 18 February 2021, 9:23 pm
Age should be by far the dominant factor in deciding how to prioritise the ongoing coronavirus vaccine rollout, the head of the Government’s advisory committee has said.
Prof Wei Shen Lim, the chairman of the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI), said more lives would be saved by targeting age groups than by any other factor.
It comes as the committee is poised to advise ministers on how to distribute jabs in the next phase of the rollout amid calls to prioritise categories of worker such as teachers and police officers.
Speaking to an online audience of doctors hosted by the Royal College of Physicians on Thursday night, Prof Lim called on colleagues to concentrate on the overall speed, saying: “One of the great successes of the programme is the rate of deployment, and this is now the most important factor in the programme, he said.
He also played down the relative importance of underlying health conditions, adding: “Age dominates by a long way, and almost all the underlying health conditions contribute some increased risk, but not a huge amount of increased risk.”
His comments follow The Telegraph’s revelation on Tuesday that the JCVI was expected to recommend the continuation of an age-based approach in the next phase, in part because singling out too many other characteristics for prioritisation would slow down delivery.
The approach would be likely to anger teaching and other trade unions, as well as many Labour MPs.
The JCVI has discussed the issue at two meetings this week, but as of Thursday it is understood that no final decision had been made.
On Thursday night, a Government source said the recommendation was unlikely to come before Boris Johnson sets out his roadmap out of lockdown on Monday.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ih8k_bSkhAU?enablejsapi=1&modestbranding=1&origin=http://www.telegraph.co.uk&rel=0
The rollout has currently reached categories five and six, which comprise people aged 65 to 69 and all those aged from 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions that puts them at high risk.
Mr Johnson has said he hopes all adults over 50 will be offered a vaccine by the end of April, thus completing phase one.
Prof Lim said that providing the overall volume of the vaccine rollout remained high, prioritising certain groups would be less important, adding: “Rather than focusing too much on sub-prioritisation within certain groups, actually what we really need to do is focus on getting our implementation or deployment right.”
He also said the rollout should focus on mitigating health inequalities and target lower vaccine takeup among some ethnic communities.