Over-35s to be offered jabs in coming days as government urges those eligible to come forward

·2-min read

Over-35s will be offered a coronavirus vaccine in the coming days, the health secretary has said.

The government is urging those who are eligible for a vaccination to come forward as cases of the Indian COVID variant spread in some parts of the UK.

"If you're in one of the eligible groups, come forward and get a jab," Matt Hancock told Sky News.

The health secretary confirmed that this coming week the vaccination programme will be opening up to those over 35, as authorities try to get on top of the Indian variant in places like Blackburn and Bolton.

Bolton is one of the places where the variant has been spreading.

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Guidance could also change on the AstraZeneca jab in order to help get more people immunised.

Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), was asked if the JCVI would look again at the recommendation that people under 40 should be offered alternatives to the Oxford/AZ jab if it means that it could speed up the rollout.

"Yes absolutely, that's on the agenda, and if necessary that's something that could be done," he said.

"When we expressed a preference for non-AstraZeneca vaccines for this age group it was done in a very provisional way on the basis of everything going absolutely right.

"And if the evidence shows that the risk benefit balance for people in their 30s is to be offered that vaccine then absolutely that recommendation will be changed.

"At the moment we don't think that's necessary, but it could well become a recommendation in the future."

Concern is growing over the extent of the outbreak of the more virulent Indian strain, but Mr Hancock said new evidence gives a "high degree of confidence" that existing vaccines will work against it and that the reopeing can proceed as planned, with more restrictions to be eased on Monday.

Professor Finn agreed, saying he was cautiously optimistic.

The minister urged people to get jabbed to prevent the new strain spreading "like wildfire".

Mr Hancock also played down reports the UK could begin delivering one million vaccine doses a day, by drawing on a stockpile of millions of jabs.

The health secretary told Times Radio he'd "love to" get to such a level but that it "all depends on supply" and that the UK was not stockpiling doses.

"We just don't have stockpiles, we don't have excess doses, we don't have a stockpile," he added.

"We've just got the supply - getting it out as quick as we can get it in."

Professor Finn also said the decision to not target vaccines in vulnerable communities was based on supply - adding it could have disrupted the programme everywhere else.