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PM’s vaccine targets aimed at lifting many COVID restrictions

Written by on 4 January 2021

Boris Johnson has outlined the NHS’s “realistic expectations” for the vaccination
programme in the coming weeks as England and Scotland head into new national lockdowns.

In his TV address on Monday evening, the prime minister said that with the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab in the UK now under way “the pace of vaccination is accelerating”.

He said that by the middle of February he wants everyone in the “top four priority groups” to have had a first dose.

That meant, he went on, “vaccinating all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, everyone over the age of 70, all frontline health and social care workers and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable”.

The story of a vaccine

He said: “If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus.

“And of course that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we’ve endured for so long.”

He also said: “So far we in the UK have vaccinated more people than in the rest of Europe combined.”

More from Covid-19

The minister for vaccine deployment Nadhim Zahawi tweeted the government’s aim was to administer 13.9 million doses by the middle of February.

Pinning his hopes on the rapid rollout of vaccines to ease restrictions, Mr Johnson acknowledged “how frustrated you are” and that “you have had more than enough of government guidance” – but stressed “now, more than ever, we must pull together”.

“The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe that we’re entering the last phase of the struggle because with every jab that goes into our arms we’re tilting the odds against COVID and in favour of the British people,” he added.

Analysis: We might just have to cross our fingers

by Thomas Moore, Sky News Science Correspondent:

The Prime Minister said the “realistic expectation” of the NHS was that the top four priority groups could receive one dose by mid-February.

That’s everyone over the age of 70, care home residents and staff, health and social care workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

My maths suggests that adds up to 13.9 million, though there will be some double-counting of people if they are in more than one group.

That’s a tough target to beat.

One million people have so far had the Pfizer jab.

But even though the Oxford vaccine is easier to use, doctors will want to roll it out slowly to start with in case there are any problems that haven’t been spotted in the clinical trials.

That means the NHS will have to immunise more than two million people a week later on to stay on target.

Nine out of 10 deaths from COVID are in people over 65, so vaccinating everyone over 70 will in time make a significant difference to the daily statistics.

How quickly that happens will determine how long we live in lockdown. It takes three weeks for immunity to kick in, but by late-February we should see hospital admissions in the elderly starting to fall.

Of course that assumes there are no production problems with the vaccines, that the NHS can deliver on the most ambitious immunisation programme in its history and that there is no new knock-out mutation in the virus.

Cross your fingers.