UK says COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for next phase to be based on age, not job

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Britain’s next phase of coronavirus vaccines will be administered based on age rather than occupational risk, an advisory group said Friday, sparking anger from police and teachers who said they should get priority.

Britain has already vaccinated 18 million people with at least one dose and says it plans to finish the whole population by the end of July.

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It is aiming to give a first dose to people over 50 and vulnerable groups by mid-April before moving onto those in their 40s, followed by those in their 30s and over-18s, said Professor Wei Shen Lim from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI).

Lim said it was speedier to move through groups by age, rather than occupational risk.

“Following an age-based program will be simple, and simplicity has been one of the cornerstones of the current program in terms of speed and success,” he said.“Speed is the critical factor here.”

But the decision was lambasted by police, who called it a “contemptible betrayal of police officers”.

“Their anger is palpable, this will not be forgotten,” tweeted John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents frontline officers. Teachers were similarly upset.

The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, said he was “disappointed that the JCVI has not advised the prioritization of education staff”.

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Schools are set to reopen in England on March 8, prompting fears of increased transmission risks.

Lim said the next phase of inoculations would focus on boosting take-up among black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities within eligible age bands, as well as among those who are obese and those living in deprived neighborhoods.

Britain this week downgraded its coronavirus alert to four from the highest tier, as the country looks to peel back restrictions in the coming months.

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