Covid infections could rise as a result of the delay in people in their 40s and younger getting their vaccinations, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has conceded.
Adam Finn, who advises UK health departments on immunisation and is a professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that vaccination of those aged under 50 “may kick off slightly later than we’d optimistically hoped”.
The delay, he said, “could have an effect on infection rates because as we move down through the population, that’s really where the impact lies.
“In terms of hospitalisation though, that’s really about phase 1: there are younger people being hospitalised with Covid but many fewer than we see in over-50s. So as long as phase 1 gets done as completely as we’re hoping it to, we really should see the impact on hospitalisations continue.”
A delay in the delivery of 5m doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine from India is partly to blame for a forthcoming reduction in the UK’s supply.
Finn said the current aim was to complete priority groups 1-9 (aged 50 and above plus health conditions) but also “to deliver on those second doses because JCVI has been very clear from the outset that those second doses must be given in order to provide the long-term protection that people need”.
He said the 12 weeks between first and second doses must “not be allowed to slip significantly and I think it may mean that the next phase, phase two [under-50s], may kick off slightly later than we’d optimistically hoped”.
Robert Jenrick conceded that the rollout of vaccines would held up for around four weeks because of the shortage.
The housing secretary told BBC Breakfast that the final goal of vaccinating all adults with one dose by the end of July was still on track. “We have every reason to believe that supply will increase in the months of May, June and July,” he said.
The government learnt of coronavirus vaccine supply issues “in the last few days”, said Jenrick, although he refused to comment on whether the shortage was due to reductions from a single nation.
A spokesperson for the Serum Institute of India told the BBC: “Five million doses had been delivered a few weeks ago to the UK and we will try to supply more later, based on the current situation and the requirement for the government immunisation programme in India.”
AstraZeneca has partnered with the institute, which is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, for supplies to the Indian government but also to other countries, including low- and middle-income ones.
The European Medicines Agency is due to deliver its verdict on the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine after more than a dozen European countries halted its rollout over fears regarding blood clots.