COVID vaccinations will be opened up to those under 30 this week as the government moves forward with the next stage in its immunisation programme.
People aged 25-29 will be able to book in for their vaccination from tomorrow (Tuesday) morning as the government marks six months since the programme began.
However, health secretary Matt Hancock said it was “still too early” to decide on whether to delay the next stage in easing lockdown restrictions on June 21, promising instead to make an announcement on Monday, June 14.
Mr Hancock told the House of Commons that more than 40 million people in the UK had received a jab.
“I’m delighted to be able to tell the house that from this week, we will start offering vaccinations to people under 30, bringing us ever closer to the goal of offering a vaccine to all adults in the UK by the end of next month,” he said.
He said the latest estimates indicated that the vaccination programme had averted more than 39,000 hospitalisations, and more than 13,000 deaths.
UK health regulators have recently concluded the Pfizer/BioNTech jab is safe for 12-15-year-olds and advice is being sought for those aged 12-17.
However, he noted an increase in cases over the past few days, with the Delta variant – previously referred to as the Indian variant – gaining an advantage of at least 40% over the previously dominant Kent variant.
Hospitalisations though, have remained “flat” nationally, he said, with just 126 people out of 12,383 cases ending in hospital last week.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust currently has four COVID patients.
He said: “The confidence in our job comes from there working and the knowledge that they’re the best way out of the pandemic.
“No one wants our freedoms to be restricted a single day longer than is necessary.
“I know the impact that these restrictions have on the things we love on our businesses on our mental health.”
However, he added: “It is still too early to make decisions on step four.”
He said a further week was needed to see the impact of the previous relaxations.
But he said he was confident that the vaccine programme would “one day soon” lead to the return of peoples’ freedom.