As the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine continues to gather enormous pace in the UK, there’s now an even clearer indication of when the pandemic might finally be over. While the country is spreading its bets with a number of vaccines in use or on order, the UK could vaccinate all adults, around 53 million people, with two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine given the fact they’ve bought 100 million doses, and now the pharmaceutical giant has indicated all of these doses could be ready before June.
The news comes as conflicting reports around when certain priority groups will receive their first dose – with a majority of protection being provided by one dose alone, hence the focus on this for now. The UK government set a target of vaccinated all over 70s and anyone classed as “extremely vulnerable” by Feb 15th, and it now looks near-certain they’ll beat this target by a few days. The second major target is everyone over 50, and anyone moderately vulnerable, with the government publically saying this week they’ll be done “by May”, however figures suggest that even vaccinating at the current rate this will be done by the end of March, possibly sooner as supply rates are expected to increase.
This leaves some 21 million non-vulnerable adults aged 18-50, the key demographic for clubs and festivals. While this group represents just 1% of deaths from Covid, the current scientific advice suggests the majority of all adults will need at least their first dose before full normality can return. With a 12 week gap between doses, the first adults to receive the Oxford vaccine will need to get their second dose as of the first week of April, so the expected hit on first doses for under 50s means this roll-out could be slower, but the news on Oxford supply, further vaccines such as Moderna (already approved with delivery expected in March), Johnson&Johnson, and Novavax (both expected to be approved soon) it is clear that if first doses can be kept at around 3.5 million per week as they are currently, the 21 million cohort could be done in just six weeks. Assuming, as above, this starts in the last week of March, this should mean all adults have had their first dose by the first week of May, meaning a normal summer could definitely be on the cars.
As always, supply is the limiting factor, but this news from AstraZeneca suggests that it is now more likely than ever that the UK can get this done within a matter of months, with hundreds of vaccination centres up and running around the country, staffed by NHS workers, the armed forces, and thousands of volunteers. The UK is still under national lockdown with very large numbers of people in hospital, but even with the vaccine rollout unlikely to be taking effect just yet, cases are falling and the government is looking to review their position on Feb 22nd, with some limited easing of lockdown restrictions possible as soon as March.
Image Credit: London (via Fabio Flgel/EyeEm/Getty Images), Vaccine (via Oxford / AstraZeneca)