The government will accelerate second jabs for the over-50s and the vulnerable and have stepped up the vaccine rollout in areas with high rates of the Indian coronavirus variant.
There are concerns that the new strain could be around 50 per cent more transmissible and the Kent variant.
“This coming week we’re going to be opening up vaccination to the 35s-and-over across the country because this isn’t just about accelerating the vaccination programme in Bolton, it’s about going as fast as we possibly can nationwide,” he said.
The Cabinet minister said there are now more than 1,300 cases of the so-called Indian variant in total and it is becoming “the dominant strain” in areas including Bolton and Blackburn in the North West.
But offering good news to plans to ease restrictions without unleashing a fresh wave of infections and deaths, Mr Hancock said there is “new very early data” from Oxford University giving confidence that existing vaccines work against the variant.
“That means that we can stay on course with our strategy of using the vaccine to deal with the pandemic and opening up carefully and cautiously but we do need to be really very vigilant to the spread of the disease,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday.
“We have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome.”
He urged people to come forward to get vaccinated, arguing the “vast majority” of people in Bolton in hospital with the new variant have been eligible for the jab but have not taken it.
Mr Hancock said the Government will decide on June 14 whether all legal restrictions can be ended in the final step of the road map out of lockdown on June 21.