Young people may get a choice of COVID vaccine

Catriona Harvey-Jenner
·8 min read
Photo credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY - Getty Images
Photo credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY - Getty Images

When will you be vaccinated for coronavirus? This vaccine calculator estimates when you'll be invited to get your first and second doses of the COVID jab...

Since December last year, the UK has been successfully rolling out its COVID-19 vaccination programme. The Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines were the first to be offered out to those most in need around the country, and the Moderna vaccine is now also on offer.

In total, almost 35 million people in Britain have been given their first dose of the jab, while more than 16 million have now been vaccinated twice - totalling more than 51 million vaccinations for the population. And it seems the roll-out is working; Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that he "feels like May 17 is going to be good," alluding to being on track to embark upon phase three of the four-step lockdown easing roadmap.

The government continues to project that every adult in the country should have received their first vaccination by July 31, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that'll be the case. The vaccine offering is edging ever closer to young people, with those over the age of 40 now able to book a COVID jab via the NHS website. And when thirty-somethings and below are offered their jabs, it looks as though they may get a choice as to which one they have.

A recommendation by The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has suggested that younger people should be allowed to opt-out of receiving the AstraZeneca jab, which became the subject of controversy after a small number of vaccine recipients went on to develop blood clots. As a result, UK announced that people under the age of 30 will now be offered an alternative coronavirus vaccine to the AstraZeneca jab, and over thirties may also be able to refuse that specific vaccine if the recommendations are acted upon.

Photo credit: Luda311 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Luda311 - Getty Images


If you haven't yet been offered a vaccine, you may be wondering roughly when you can expect it. And luckily, there's a handy online vaccine calculator that can give you a better idea of where you are in the queue right now. Omni Calculator's Vaccine Queue Calculator for the UK asks you to input a series of information - including your age, whether you're a care home or health worker, if you're currently pregnant, and more - and then it works out roughly when you might be expected to receive an invite for a dose, based on the most recent roll-out rate across the country. You can try it for yourself here.

As a healthy 30-year-old woman, not working in a caregiving role, I wasn't personally surprised to learn that there are still between 3 million and 9 million people in front of me in the queue for a COVID vaccine across the UK. The tool doesn't appear to be taking into account the new information that thirty-somethings may be able to access the vaccine from this week, and has instead calculated that, at the current roll-out rate (which, in the past 7 days was just over 3 million doses per week), I could expect to be offered the first dose of the vaccine any time between late May and early July. The calculator suggests I should have the second administered some time between mid August and late September.

Photo credit: Yulia Reznikov - Getty Images
Photo credit: Yulia Reznikov - Getty Images

Those estimations are encouraging and it means that, by now, pretty much everyone in greater need than has gained some level of immunity from the virus. The government has always been decisive about the fact age would be the "biggest priority" (in the words of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam) when working out who would be offered the jab first. And quite rightly so; coronavirus is known to pose a greater risk the older you are.

However, there are numerous other factors also being taken into consideration when it comes to working out who's a priority for getting a jab. The government's vaccine task-force previously drew up a list to lay out who is eligible for the vaccination first, which largely used occupation, age, and medical history as an assessment of vulnerability to coronavirus. While all that still stands, experts are also taking into account various other characteristics that may put a person at higher risk of serious illness resulting from the virus. These include people whose ethnicity or high BMI put them more at risk, as well as whether they smoke, and what their housing situation is. This makes sense, given that research shows those who are overweight and who are from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background have a higher chance of falling seriously ill with COVID.

The original order of priority, which still stands in conjunction with other factors, is:

Who has been offered the COVID-19 vaccine first?

  1. Older adults' resident in a care home and care home workers

  2. All those 80 years of age and over, and health and social care workers

  3. All those 75 years of age and over

  4. All those 70 years of age and over

  5. All those 65 years of age and over

  6. High-risk adults under 65 years of age

  7. Moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age

  8. All those 60 years of age and over

  9. All those 55 years of age and over

  10. All those 50 years of age and over

  11. Rest of the population (priority to be determined)

Does the vaccine stop the spread of the virus, as well as stopping people getting sick?

This was something experts couldn't be sure of prior to the vaccine being rolled out. While the vaccine trials showed high efficacy rates in preventing sickness from COVID-19 in those who had the jabs, it wasn't clear whether those who have been vaccinated could still unknowingly spread the virus (even if it hadn't taken hold in their own bodies thanks to their immunity).

In exciting news, one study suggested that the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine is having a "substantial" effect on reducing the transmission of the virus. Similarly, studies on the Pfizer vaccine in Israel (where more than half of the population is vaccinated) have showed that it's stopped 89.4% of virus transmission in the country. The most recent study from Public Health England shows that a single dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines can reduce household transmission of the virus by up to half. Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the research as "terrific news," and he's right - it's very encouraging. If vaccinated people are less likely to be able to spread the virus, we have more chance of properly curbing its spread across the population.

Will we need vaccine boosters yearly?

As it stands, the UK has ordered more than 400 million doses of seven different coronavirus vaccines (most of which are not yet available for use). The majority of these vaccines require two doses, meaning there's more than enough for at least 200 million people to be vaccinated. But our population is around 67 million, so how come we're buying more vaccines than we have people?

There are two possible reasons for that. Firstly, it may be because we are planning to donate some of our vaccine supplies to other countries who are in need. As it stands, very few of the 29 poorest countries in the world have received any jabs, but if we don't vaccinate globally, it's hard to see how we'll overcome the pandemic.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast in February, World Health Organisation spokesperson Margaret Harris said: "There have been a number of very interesting analyses showing that just vaccinating your own country and then sitting there and saying 'we’re fine' won’t work economically. That phrase 'no man is an island' applies economically as well… Unless we get all societies working effectively once again, every society will be financially affected."

Photo credit: Yulia Reznikov - Getty Images
Photo credit: Yulia Reznikov - Getty Images

The other suggestion as to why the government has bought so many more vaccines than they have people is that the vaccine programme may be ongoing over the coming years. As the virus mutates, it's possible that people will need a booster jab to maintain immunity, although there is currently limited scientific evidence to confirm this either way.

In April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told This Morning that experts were "working on a new vaccine that we might have to roll out in the autumn, to give people a third dose that will deal with this [new variant] problem."

By placing bulk orders for next year (and with the option to order more for years to come - 90 million additional Valneva doses have been optioned for 2023 and 2025 if needed) it suggests the government is planning for the possibility of revaccinating the population in years to come.

But whether we end up needing more vaccinations in future not, I think the one thing we can all agree on is that the existence of the vaccine and the fact we're almost at stage three of the four-stage roadmap out of lockdown is providing some light at the end of this very, very dark coronavirus tunnel. Thank F for that.

The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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