Teachers, police officers and shop workers could be prioritised for coronavirus vaccines in the next phase of the campaign, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Monday.
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The remark comes as England started offering doses to more than five million people people aged 70 and above and those considered extremely vulnerable on Monday.
The vaccination programme, the biggest so far in Europe, has until now focused on people aged 80 and older and frontline health and care staff.
But Mr Zahawi said key workers who were not offered the shot in the first round should be prioritised in the second phase. He cited teachers, police officers and shop workers as priority professions.
“My very strong instinct is those who through no fault of their own … are much more likely to come into contact with the virus should be prioritised,” he told Sky News.
Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed a new “milestone” in the race to vaccinate the country.
“Today is a significant milestone in our vaccination programme as we open it up to millions more people who are most at risk from Covid-19,” he said.
“We have a long way to go and there will doubtless be challenges ahead, but by working together we are making huge progress in our fight against this virus.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said more than half of all those over 80 had now been given a dose.
Britain, which has Europe’s highest Covid-19 death toll, hopes progress with vaccines will enable it to ease some of the economically damaging lockdown restrictions in March, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said.
The government wanted all adults to have been offered a first vaccination by September, Mr Raab said.
“If we can do it faster than that, great,” he said. “But that’s the roadmap.”
Mr Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the four most at-risk categories, encompassing about 14 million people, by the middle of February.
The government said that the first two groups in its programme would remain its priority, but that vaccination sites that can take in more people will call on members of the next two groups for their shots.
Sunday’s announcement related to vaccinations in England, a Health Ministry spokesman said.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own powers over health policy.
Updated: January 18, 2021 11:43 AM