People under the age of 30 will be invited for a Covid-19 vaccination next week, the health secretary has confirmed.
Matt Hancock said this morning that the next cohort of people will be called up within days after the NHS booking site opened up to people aged 30 and 31 last week.
But despite the success of the vaccine programme, he said it was ‘too early’ to determine whether ‘Freedom Day’ will go ahead as planned on June 21.
He said the jabs had ‘severed but not broken’ the link between a rise in Covid cases and an increase in the number of people being admitted to hospital.
Mr Hancock told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: ‘The majority of people going into hospital with Covid now are unvaccinated.
‘Obviously that’s a challenge for them but it’s good news for all of us because it shows that the vaccine protects you from going into hospital.
‘This week we’ll be opening up vaccines to the under-30s and so we’re getting a step closer to the point when we’ve been able to offer the vaccine to all adults in this country.
‘Once we’ve got everybody having had their second dose, of course then you’ll get this protection that we’re seeing at the moment amongst older people… throughout the whole adult population.
‘That way, we can get out of this and restore our freedoms. But the timing of exactly when we can take that step is the big question.’
The health secretary confirmed the latest advice is that the Delta strain – or the Indian variant – is 40% more transmissible than the Kent one.
However, he added that the vaccine works ‘just as effectively’ against the variant but it was crucial that people get their second jab.
He said the Government is ‘not saying no to June 21’ but that the variant had made the decision of whether to go ahead with the final step of easing restrictions more difficult.
Pressed on whether the date could be postponed if the data ‘gets bad’, Mr Hancock told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘We are absolutely open to doing that if that’s what needs to happen.
‘We said in the road map that June 21 is the date by which we would not take Step 4 before that date and that we would look at the data.
‘That is exactly what we are doing, so the road map was set up in order to be able to take these sort of changes into account.’
The prime minister said earlier this week that the data is still ‘too ambiguous’ for him to be able to make a decision.
However, Boris Johnson reiterated that there is ‘nothing in the data at the moment that means we cannot go ahead with Step 4’ of the Government’s roadmap.
‘But we’ve got to be so cautious,’ he added, as he said infection rates were increasing.
‘We always knew that was going to happen,’ the Prime Minister said, adding: ‘What we need to work out is to what extent the vaccination programme has protected enough of us, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, against a new surge, and there I’m afraid the data is still ambiguous.
‘The best the scientists can say at the moment is we just need to give it a little bit longer.’
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