BORIS JOHNSON said he will reveal his plans for the next wave of Covid vaccines for those under-70s on February 15.
The Prime Minister said 10 million have now received their first dose of the jab – marking a hugemile stone in Britain’s fight against the virus.
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So far, the NHS is working through the top four priority groups who most vulnerable in society, including the elderly and frontline healthcare staff.
With almost 90 per cent of those aged 75 and over having received there first jab, talks have turned to when the next cohort will start getting theirs.
Speaking at a No10 briefing tonight, Mr Johnson said that he will be able to reveal more on the “second wave” of vaccines in less than a fortnight.
He has previously said that February 15 is the date that the current lockdown measures are due to be reviewed by the Government.
The country’s lockdown exit roadmap will then be published in the week of February 22 before going before Parliament for debate.
Asked about when the next group of people will be invited for their jabs, Mr Johnson said: “On the second wave of vaccinations, I think what you can expect is on the 15th [February] we’ll say a bit more and where we’ve got to.
“Obviously we’re hoping that we’ll have done JCVI groups 1 – 4 and I expect that in that week we’ll be saying we’ll be doing JCVI 1 – 9 and the priorities thereafter.
“In terms of the timetable for where the vaccinations are going that’s what you should more or less expect.
“But on the 22nd I hope to be setting out in some more detail some dates and possibilities for the year ahead.”
The jab priority list is determined by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI).
Phase 1 is made up of groups one to nine, which in addition those already invited for a jab includes all those over 50 and everyone over 16s with underlying health conditions with higher risk of severe disease or death.
These top priority four groups alone account for 88 per cent of Covid deaths.
It is estimated that taken together, including groups one to nine represents around 99 per cent of preventable deaths from Covid-19.
Also tonight, Mr Johnson warned that coronavirus infections remain “alarmingly high” and the NHS is still under “huge pressure”.
He said: “Though today there are some signs of hope – the numbers of Covid patients in hospital are beginning to fall for the first time since the onset of this new wave – the level of infection is still alarmingly high.
“The wards of our NHS are under huge pressure with more than 32,000 Covid patients still in hospital.”
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said that while the number of people in hospital with coronavirus has “quite noticeably” reduced, it is still above that of the first peak in April last year.
The wards of our NHS are under huge pressure with more than 32,000 Covid patients still in hospital
He added: “The number of people in hospital with Covid has now gone down from its peak, quite noticeably…
“But as the Prime Minister said, there are still a very large number of people in hospital, and more people than there were in the first peak in April last year.
“So this is still a very major problem, but it is one that is heading the right way.”
Prof Whitty said the number of deaths would “stay high for quite some time”.
Meanwhile, the team behind the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab has said vaccines against new coronavirus variants should be ready by October.
In a media briefing hosted by AstraZeneca, Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said work on designing a new vaccine could be completed rapidly.
It comes after studies have shown that variants of coronavirus with the worrying E484K mutation could make vaccines less effective, though they are still expected to offer good protection against illness and severe disease.
The mutation is found in the South African variant of the virus, which has prompted surge-testing in eight postcode areas of England where community transmission is feared.
It has also been detected in Bristol in the variant first identified in Kent, and in Liverpool in a new variant of the original pandemic strain.
Prof Pollard said: “I think the actual work on designing a new vaccine is very, very quick because it’s essentially just switching out the genetic sequence for the spike protein, for the updated variants.
“And then there’s manufacturing to do and then a small-scale study.
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“So all of that can be completed in a very short period of time, and the autumn is really the timing for having new vaccines available for use rather than for having the clinical trials run.”
Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, said: “Our ambition is to be ready for the next round of immunisations that may be necessary as we go into next winter. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
He continued: “We’re very much aiming to try and have something ready by the autumn. So, this year.”