NHS staff and at-risk groups first in line for COVID-19 vaccine, says JCVI

Frontline NHS staff and patients in at-risk groups should be prioritised for vaccination against COVID-19 if a safe and effective vaccine is developed, expert government advisers have said.

Coronavirus vaccine (Photo: Tek Image/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)
Coronavirus vaccine (Photo: Tek Image/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock told a Downing Street briefing on 18 June that the UK is building a stockpile of a vaccine still going through trials 'so we can be ready should it be clinically approved'.

The joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) has advised that frontline NHS staff and patients at the highest risk should be first in line for vaccination.

Mr Hancock said that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups could also be prioritised. He told the briefing: 'As we learn more about the virus we will continue to take into account which groups may be particularly vulnerable, including those from ethnic minority backgrounds, so we can protect the most at risk.'

At-risk patients

At risk groups identified by the JCVI include adults over 50, people with long-term conditions including chronic heart, pulmonary or kidney disease, obesity and dementia - and the 2.2m patients on coronavirus shielding lists.

The committee said its advice may change as understanding of COVID-19 developed. The committee had reviewed data 'indicating potentially increased risk of serious disease and mortality in certain BAME groups' - but warned that more investigation was needed to understand 'complex' reasons behind this.

The JCVI said that data on natural immunity among patients who have already been infected with coronavirus, and factors such as whether particular groups of the population were heavily linked to transmission could also influence decisions on vaccination strategy.

COVID-19 death rate

A Public Health England review published this month found that death rates from COVID-19 were highest among patients from BAME groups. A second part of the review, published earlier this week, found that racism, social inequality and increased prevalence of some chronic conditions may explain this disparity in outcomes.

The JCVI call for vaccination of NHS staff comes after calls for the government to roll out routine weekly COVID-19 testing for health and care workers.

The Labour party proposal came amid evidence that one in five UK coronavirus cases may have been picked up in hospital, and that almost nine in 10 healthcare workers infected had picked up the virus at work.

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