All people over the age of 23 can book Covid jabs from tomorrow, as ‘freedom day’ is delayed by four weeks.
Millions across England had hoped all social contact rules could be lifted on June 21.
But this dream was crushed today as Boris Johnson warned the country needs more time to beat back the Delta variant, first discovered in India.
The Government is now aiming to offer first vaccine doses to all adults to coincide with the new ‘freedom’ date of July 19, rather than July 31 as initially planned.
It is hoped around two-thirds of adults will be fully vaccinated by then.
People aged 23 and 24 can book jabs from tomorrow morning after the vaccine programme was opened to all people aged 25 and above last week.
It comes as a new study suggests two vaccine doses provide strong protection against the Delta variant, which is responsible for 90% of Covid cases in the UK.
The strain is feared to be 40% to 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant first detected in Kent, and is believed to double the risk of hospitalisation.
However, the Pfizer-BioNTech jab was found to be 79% effective – compared with 92% against the Alpha strain – at least two weeks after the second dose.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Spi-M modelling suggests if we were to go ahead with Step 4 on Monday there’s a possibility of hospitalisations around the peak of the first wave.
‘But vaccine effectiveness especially after two doses means thousands more deaths can be prevented if people are jabbed.
‘By reducing the dosing interval for over 40s from 12 weeks to eight weeks, all over 40s who received a first dose by mid-May will have been offered their second dose by week commencing July 19. By July 19 cohorts 1-9 will have been offered a second dose and over 18s will have been offered a first dose.
‘This will mean around two-thirds of adults will have been offered two doses, reducing the risk of hospitalizations and deaths.’
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