JCVI issues interim advice on Phase 2 of COVID-19 vaccination programme rollout

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has considered the evidence for Phase 2 of the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.

JCVI has been asked by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to give its advice on the optimal strategy to further reduce mortality, morbidity and hospitalisation from coronavirus (COVID-19) disease.

Evidence suggests an age-based approach remains the most effective way of reducing death and hospitalisation from COVID-19.

For Phase 2, modelling studies also indicate the speed of vaccine deployment is the most important factor in maximising public health benefits against severe outcomes.

After groups 1 to 9 in Phase 1, people aged 40 to 49 years are at highest risk of hospitalisation, with the risk reducing the younger you are.

Prioritisation will therefore continue in the following order, once all at-risk groups in Phase 1 have been offered at least one dose of the vaccine:

  • all those aged 40 to 49 years
  • all those aged 30 to 39 years
  • all those aged 18 to 29 years

The committee agreed that mass vaccination targeting occupational groups would be more complex to deliver and may slow down the vaccine programme, leaving some more vulnerable people at higher risk unvaccinated for longer.

Operationally, simple and easy-to-deliver programmes are critical for rapid deployment and high vaccine uptake.

Other people at higher risk of hospitalisation from COVID-19 include:

  • men
  • those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities
  • those with a BMI over 30
  • those living in deprived neighbourhoods

JCVI strongly advises that these people promptly take up the offer of vaccination when they are offered.

JCVI also strongly advises that priority is given to promoting vaccine uptake in these groups. Local health teams should use their knowledge and experience to engage with local communities in support of the vaccine programme.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI, said:

Vaccinations stop people from dying and the current strategy is to prioritise those who are more likely to have severe outcomes and die from COVID-19.

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.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at Public Health England (PHE), said:

Delivering a vaccination programme on this scale is incredibly complex and the JCVI’s advice will help us continue protecting individuals from the risk of hospitalisation at pace.

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.

JCVI will continue closely monitoring the impact of the programme including vaccine safety, effectiveness and uptake, and will update its advice as required.

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