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UK offers second vax doses to most vulnerable to help protect against variants

Coronavirus. Photo: UK government

London, May 15 (MNN) The most vulnerable in the United Kingdom will be offered their second COVID-19 vaccine earlier, the government has announced, as part of plans to tackle rising cases of the B1.617.2 variant of concern first identified in India.

Appointments for a second dose of a vaccine will be brought forward from 12 to 8 weeks for the remaining people in the top 9 priority groups who have yet to receive their second dose.

This is to ensure people across the UK have the strongest possible protection from the virus at an earlier opportunity, the Department of Health and Social Care said on Wednesday.

The move follows updated advice from the independent experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which has considered the latest available evidence on the variant and has recommended reducing the dosing interval to help protect the nation from the variant.

People should continue to attend their second dose appointments and nobody needs to contact the NHS.

The NHS will let those who should bring their appointment forward know, when they are able to do so. Those aged under 50 will continue to get their first dose, with their second dose at 12 weeks, as has been the deployment strategy so far.

UK Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “It’s vital we do everything we can and use every resource we have to ensure we continue to keep the nation safe. We have implemented measures at record pace to get on top of this new variant and control the spread.”

While there is no evidence to show variant first detected in India has a greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine, the speed of growth is of note and the government is working quickly to ensure the appropriate action is being taken.

The latest data on the B1.617.2 variant, published by Public Health England on Thursday night, shows the number of cases across the UK has risen from 520 last week to 1,313 cases this week. Most cases are in the North West of England, with some in London.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had issued advice to the UK government on the use of COVID-19 vaccines to mitigate the impact of the B1.617.2 variant of concern.

The advice is specific to circumstances in the UK at this time.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI, said: “Due to the rapid rise in cases of the B1.617.2 variant of concern and notable transmission in parts of the country, the JCVI advises that every effort is made to promote vaccine uptake in those who remain unvaccinated in priority cohorts 1 to 9 – these people remain at highest risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.”

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