People between the ages of 40 and 49 will be prioritised next for a coronavirus vaccine, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said.
The committee, which advises the government on immunisation, had considered whether groups such as teachers and police officers should be fast-tracked for jabs.
However, the body concluded that prioritising people by age will be more effective at preventing deaths and hospitalisations. Explaining its decision, it said that targeting occupational groups such as teachers would be complex and could slow the vaccine rollout.
This comes as the UK grows ever closer to completing phase one of its mass vaccine programme, which aims to immunise all over-50s and clinically vulnerable people against Covid-19.
In phase two, those in their 40s will be asked to book a vaccination appointment. People in their 30s will then be called to have their jab, followed by those aged between 18 and 29.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, the JCVI’s Covid-19 chair, said the current strategy gives priority to those who are more likely to develop serious illness and die from coronavirus.
He said: “The evidence is clear that the risk of hospitalisation and death increases with age.
“The vaccination programme is a huge success and continuing the age-based rollout will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time, including to those in occupations at a higher risk of exposure.”
The JCVI highlighted that men, people from BAME communities, those with a BMI above 30 and those living in deprived areas were at higher risk of hospitalisation from the virus.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England (PHE), said the JCVI’s advice will help individuals most at risk.
“The age-based approach will ensure more people are protected more quickly. It is crucial that those at higher risk – including men and BAME communities – are encouraged to take the vaccine, and that local health systems are fully engaged and reaching out to underserved communities to ensure they can access the vaccine,” she said.
The JCVI said it would update its advice as required and would continue to monitor vaccine safety, effectiveness and uptake.
The vaccination programme, which is key to the prime minister’s “roadmap” out of lockdown, has administered 18,691,835 first doses and 700,718 second doses in the UK so far, according to government data.