The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has defended the approach of bringing forward second jabs, rather than speeding up the rollout to younger people.
Bolton Council has been pushing for those aged 18 and over to be vaccinated, and a councillor deleted a tweet on Saturday in which he claimed “anyone” with a Bolton postcode and registered with a Bolton GP could visit a vaccine bus and get jabbed.
In the tweet which was on Twitter for more than an hour before it was deleted, the councillor said: “The team will find a reason to vaccinate you. Closes at 5pm. The 4000 vaccines must be used today.”
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NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group said earlier in the day that anyone registered with a GP in Bolton can visit the vaccination bus – but pointed out that they must be either over 38, a carer, shielding, or have a long-term health condition.
On Friday, England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said there is not an endless supply of vaccines and the aim is to firstly protect the most vulnerable from coronavirus, which “is very heavily predicated by age”.
He told a Downing Street press conference: “If we took vaccine away from, say, groups in their late 30,s and transferred them to groups of people who are 18 or 20 who are at much lower risk of severe disease, the view of the JCVI has clearly been that this would lead to a net disadvantage overall.
“The sensible thing to do is to prioritise the vaccines to those who are most at risk in all the places across the UK, because this virus is a risk everywhere, but there are very strong aims to try and accelerate and make easier vaccination in the areas which are most affected by this virus.”
He also noted that “the fundamental issue is that we have a finite supply at any given time of the vaccine, so if you vaccinate one person, by definition you are not vaccinating another”.
On Saturday, deputy chair of the JCVI, Professor Anthony Harnden, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that targeting more vulnerable people with full immunity is a “better strategy”.
He said: “The reason we think this is, if we immunise 18-29 year olds, for instance, in these areas we’ll be taking vaccines from somebody else in the country.
“The vaccines may be less effective against transmission and immunity takes a number of weeks to develop, so it’s not a very good strategy for preventing transmission, what we want is to prevent disease.
“From a vaccination strategy it just won’t help mass-vaccinating a number of young people at the expense of older people who haven’t been vaccinated.”
Misinformation around the issue has caused confusion in recent days.
A Merseyside vaccine centre faced a queue that stretched around the block after it was announced all over-20s would be given a jab.
The centre is at Hirshman’s Chemist in Sefton, near Formby, where there has been a rise in coronavirus cases with the Indian variant.
More than 150 people turned up after a Facebook post announced that all over-20s would be eligible for a jab at the centre after 3pm on Friday.
Elsewhere, Blackburn with Darwen Council initially said on Thursday that it would be offering vaccines to all over-18s from next week, following the increase in cases, but later said that, although additional vaccine clinics are being set up, the jab will only be offered to those eligible under current Government guidance.
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