A coronavirus vaccine will not offer a “sudden and complete solution” to the pandemic but is likely to be given to older people first, a Government adviser has said.
Professor Adam Finn from the University of Bristol, who is a member of the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI), which advises ministers on vaccines, said the evidence showed that the jab should be first given to older people, carers and those who are vulnerable, before other considerations such as people’s occupations were looked at.
It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons on Monday that the Government would follow JCVI advice on who to vaccinate.
Mr Hancock has distanced himself from comments made by the head of the UK vaccine taskforce, who said less than half of the UK population could be given a jab to protect against the virus.
She said: “It’s an adult-only vaccine for people over 50 focusing on health workers and care home workers and the vulnerable.”
But when asked about her comments, Mr Hancock said it was a matter for his department and it would take advice from the JCVI.
Speaking on Tuesday morning, Prof Finn from the JCVI said producing a vaccine and vaccinating people was going to “take a while”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “People should not imagine that there’s going to be a sudden and complete solution.
“These early vaccines I hope will work to some extent, but there are lots of different vaccines, and they will not all work equally effectively.
“So it’s going to be a long drawn-out process getting this right.”
Prof Finn said the “obvious people to target for the vaccines, at least at the outset, will be the people that who are at highest risk of getting sick and dying, and that’s really the elderly and alongside them those that care for them”.
He told the Today programme it was difficult “to find out whether a vaccine blocks transmission until you implement it”, adding that “with most of the programmes in the past, this is something we found after we’ve started using the vaccine”.
He added: “There are ways that you can try and get at that during the course of doing trials, but it is more difficult to do.
“And of course you would need to have a lot of vaccine to immunise enough people to start to have that effect anyway.
“So for both of those reasons, I think we’re likely to see the vaccine being directed towards people who are seen as being at the highest risk, at least to start with.”
Prof Finn said he was a “strong proponent” of the idea that vaccines should be used to block transmission but the evidence will “be limited on that initially.”
On September 25, the JCVI said care home residents were among those who should be given the jab first, with healthy members of the public later vaccinated according to their age.
The interim guidance says the order of priority should be:
– Older adults in a care home and care home workers
– All those aged 80 and over and health and social care workers, although they may move up the list
– Anyone aged 75 and over
– Anyone aged 70 and over
– Anyone aged 65 and over
– High-risk adults under 65 years of age
– Moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age
– Anyone aged 60 and over
– Anyone aged 55 and over
– Anyone aged 50 and over
– The rest of the population, with priority yet to be determined.
The JCVI said the “prioritisation could change substantially if the first available vaccines were not considered suitable for, or effective in, older adults”.
Any vaccination programme must also ensure good coverage among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, as well as those living in deprived areas, it said.