Giving Covid vaccine to elderly will do little to stop spread, scientist warns
Ralph Evans, 88, receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Pontcae Medical Practice in Merthyr Tydfil (Image: PA)
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Vaccinating the elderly will do little to stop the spread of the virus, say some scientists.
That’s because while over-75s are most likely to die from the disease, they are also least likely to catch it.
Three-quarters of those in intensive care are now aged under 75.
Care home residents and staff, NHS workers and the over-70s are the top priority for receiving one of three vaccines now approved.
But Prof Christina Pagel of University College London said: “Over-75s are not the main spreaders so vaccinating will have an impact on death but not transmission.”
Prof Pagel said giving the jab to over-75s might not drive down infections straight away
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And Prof Gabriel Scally, President of Epidemiology at the Royal Society of Medicine, added: “My great fear is that we’ll be carried away with enthusiasm for vaccinating those at highest risk of serious illness and death and will forget all the other people who will get the virus.”
Deenan Pillay, professor of virology at University College London, and also a member of the Independent SAGE group, warned that the virus is here to stay and we will need booster vaccines against it every year.
He said: “The most important thing about these vaccines is that they stop people getting ill once they have got the infection. But what is not yet clear is the degree to which they protect you from being infected without symptoms and therefore from passing it on.”
Their warnings will put a dampener on Friday’s news that a third Covid-19 jab made by US biotech firm Moderna has been approved by British regulators.
The UK is aiming to vaccinate 13m of the most vulnerable by mid-February
The first 130,000 over-80s are being invited to book jabs at seven new vaccines centres opening this week. And next week another 500,000 similar letters are due to go out for further appointments.
They are being sent to elderly who live 30 to 45 minutes’ drive from one of the centres.
The centres are at Ashton Gate in Bristol, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, Excel Centre in London, The Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne, Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester, Robertson House in Stevenage, and Millennium Point in Birmingham.
Boris Johnson has vowed that 13 million of England’s most vulnerable people will be vaccinated by mid-February.
He has secured 17 million doses of the new Moderna jab, 100 million of the Astra-Zeneca one and 40 million of Pfizer’s.
Meanwhile, the world’s eyes are on Indonesia, which has decided to vaccinate working-age adults first instead of the elderly. The south-east Asian country claims it will deliver herd immunity fast and revive the economy.