THE NHS is being urged to speed up the coronavirus vaccine roll out and try to give as many second doses as soon as possible as the spread of the Indian variant accelerates.
Officials have told all staff in charge of administering the jabs that second doses for over 50s should be brought forward, from 12 weeks to eight weeks, but the delay for under 50s would remain at 12 weeks.
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But some people in their late 40s and early 50s are now being invited for their second jab after just six weeks, the i reports.
The government's plan to lift all restrictions by June 21 is reportedly “on a knife edge” due to the rapid spread of the indian variant.
Sources claim that the government is urging vaccination centres with sufficient supply to accelerate the roll out of the jabs.
Public Health England published research last week which found both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are much less effective against the Indian variant, B1617.2, after one dose.
The Medicines and Healthcare products REgulatory agency has recommended that the gap between doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine should be around four and 12 weeks.
They also say that the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be administered after a minimum of at least three weeks.
The number of cases of B1617.2 rose by 3,535 over the last week to 6,959 and "hospitalisations are rising" in some of the affected areas – with Bolton, Bedford and Blackburn with Darwen being the worst hit.
PHE said in a statement: "Hospital attendances and admissions are predominantly in unvaccinated individuals, highlighting how crucial it is that people in these areas come forward to receive vaccination."
The latest analysis suggests the variant could be as much as 67 per cent more transmissible than the already infectious Kent variant (B.1.1.7), which drove the surge in cases which led to the third national lockdown.
SAGE has suggested that there could be up to 50 deaths a day because of the new variant even if the vaccination programme continues.
A SAGE source told the i the “most likely outcome is 21 June still holds”, but added: “We need to see individual NHS trust admissions top out clearly and local infection levels fall in places like Bolton.”
The latest government figures show 73.8% of the adult population (38,871,200 people) in the UK has received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 46.5% (24,478,052 people) have had two.
It comes after just two people died after contracting the indian variant of the killer virus who have received both jabs.
Figures from PHE show that despite the rise in cases only 12 people have died, of whom only two were fully vaccinated.
Three per cent of infections were in people who had been given both doses of the vaccine, while nearly 73 per cent of all cases were in completely unvaccinated people and the rest in those who had had one jab.
Of 201 people who ended up in accident and emergency with the variant, only five were fully vaccinated.
James Ward, a mathematician and strategic consultant, told the Times that the vaccine effectiveness against being hospitalised with the Indian variant is 85-90 per cent after one dose and "near 100 per cent" after two jabs.
New data shows that the overall case fatality rate of the Indian strain of the virus is 0.2 per cent compared to the Kent variant which was 2 per cent.
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