Oxford vaccine: Matt Hancock says 'no set date' when under-50s can get 'game changer' jab

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·2-min read
Matt Hancock said no date is set for when under 50s who don't need to shield will be vaccinated. (PA)
Matt Hancock said no date has been set for when under-50s without pre-existing conditions will be vaccinated. (PA)

Health secretary Matt Hancock has refused to put a date on when people under 50 without pre-existing conditions can receive a coronavirus vaccine dose.

Speaking as news emerged that the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine has been approved for use, in a decision described earlier in the week as a potential “game changer”, the minister said the government wants to speed up the vaccination programme.

It has 100 million doses on order, with each person requiring two doses spaced up to 12 weeks apart, and Hancock has said it gives the UK a way out of the pandemic by spring.

The country also has 30 million of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, giving it enough doses of COVID vaccines to cover the whole population, he added.

Watch: Hancock hails ‘significant moment’ in pandemic

Hancock said under-50s who are considered clinically vulnerable to coronavirus will be vaccinated before others their age.

However, speaking to Times Radio on Wednesday morning, he admitted the date when under-50s without conditions can be vaccinated is at the mercy of how quickly the vaccine can be produced.

“It depends on the speed of manufacture, I wish I could give you a date... but we can’t because it depends on the speed of the manufacture,” he said.

“This product, it’s not a chemical compound, it’s a biological product, so it’s challenging to make. So that is the rate-limiting factor in terms of the rollout.

General manager of Covid Recovery Becky Board administers the hospital's first Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to George Dyer, 90, in The Vaccination Hub at Croydon University Hospital, south London, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.
Oxford-AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine joins Pfizer-BioNTech's in being approved for use in the UK. (PA)

“Now that we have two vaccines being delivered we can accelerate – how fast we can accelerate will be determined by how fast the manufacturers can produce.

“But what I can tell you is that I now have a very high degree of confidence that by the spring enough of those who are vulnerable will be protected to allow us to get out of this pandemic situation.”

Under-50s who received a letter telling them to shield will be “pulled forward” in the vaccine queue, Hancock told BBC Breakfast.

He said: “And then once we’ve vaccinated all of them, and the over-50s, which is a significant chunk of the population, then we will continue to vaccinate the under-50s, even though the likelihood of dying from the disease is much lower if you’re under the age of 50.”

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Children will not be vaccinated, he said, because “this vaccine has not been trialled on children”, who are “much less likely to have symptoms from the disease”.

Earlier this week, Professor Calum Semple, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the Oxford vaccine would be a “game changer” because it would make many more doses available.

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