Second Covid jabs could be fast-tracked to combat Indian variant spread

The government may “flex” its vaccine programme by accelerating second Covid shots and offering jabs to multi-generational households to help combat the spread of the Indian variant of the disease in the UK, ministers have said.

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said the UK would “flex the vaccine programme to where the clinicians think it is best utilised,” in areas seeing a rise in cases of the Indian variant.

The number of cases of the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19 doubled in the last week from 520 to 1,313. The Indian variant is more transmissible than other variants but there is no evidence it is more dangerous or is resistant to vaccines.

Zahawi told the BBC the fast-tracked schedule could include people receiving accelerated second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to help better protect them against Covid-19.

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He also said the government was looking at offering people in muti-generational homes the vaccine regardless of their age if they lived in areas where the variant is spreading such as Bolton and Formby.

This follows successful pilots of the scheme in Luton and Slough, the minister said.

“We will do whatever it takes…to deliver additional enhanced protection through vaccination,” Zahawi said.

The minister also refused to rule out the use of regional lockdown measures to help stop the spread of the variant.

“We will take nothing off the table whether it is regional or national measures we will need to take,” Zahawi said.

On 13 May the government announced it was rolling out surge testing to 15 areas where the variant is spreading.

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This includes sending a team of 100 nurses to Bolton to go door-to-door to test for the variant.

Areas of concern include locations in the north-west of England such as Bolton and Formby, and areas of London, which has seen more than 400 cases of the variant, official figures showed.

In London surge testing is being targeted at areas within the HA4 postcode in Ruislip, areas within the IG1 and IG6 postcodes and the IG5 and IG7 postcodes in Redbridge, areas within the E1 postcode in Tower Hamlets and around the Woodlands area of Hounslow.

“We are monitoring the situation very carefully and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary,” health secretary Matt Hancock said.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email James Booth

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