Britain's fourth Covid vaccine could be just days away from being approved for use, as the Government prepares to widen the rollout to the under-50s.
A decision by the health regulator on the single-dose Janssen jab is expected to be made within the next ten days, and the Government’s order of 30 million doses, which it secured last summer, will add to the UK’s expanding stockpile.
The news comes as hundreds of thousands of the 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine are also coming on stream. The first injections were administered in Wales last week, and are now being extended to the rest of the UK.
The renewed pace of the rollout means that Ministers are now in a position to offer jabs to the under-50s, just as lockdown rules are eased tomorrow and pubs, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers prepare to welcome back their customers. More than £300 million is expected to be spent on the hospitality industry this week.
The UK also smashed its daily record for second jabs for the second day running, with 450,136 doses administered on Friday, taking the number of second jabs to 6,991,310, or 13.3 per cent of all UK adults.
A total of 32,010,244 people have received their first dose, which is nearly 61 per cent of all adults.
On April 6 – the latest day for which data is available – just 221 people were admitted to hospital with Covid-19, while the 2,589 positive tests represents a drop of nearly a third in a week. Another 40 deaths were reported yesterday.
A Mail on Sunday poll has found that the return to pubs, restaurants and shops is welcomed by huge numbers of people.
The most popular change to the lockdown rules is the return of visits to the homes of friends and family, which is welcomed by 86 per cent of people. Deltapoll found that voters overwhelmingly back the use of vaccine passports to speed up the relaxation of Covid restrictions, with 63 per cent in favour and just 25 per cent opposed.
Large gatherings could be on the table again as people welcome the use of vaccine passports
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is studying data from trials of the Janssen jab – made by the US firm Johnson & Johnson – amid claims that its use has led to ‘extraordinarily rare’ incidents of blood clots.
It uses similar technology to that being used in the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was last week restricted in the UK to the over-30s because of the same rare side effect.
Despite the publicity about blood clots, Government sources say that there has been not been a drop-off in demand for the vaccine.
Passports could be used to allow the return of mass public gatherings in the summer, including capacity crowds for the start of the new Premier League season
Data from the Office for National Statistics suggests coronavirus cases in the UK are down to less than a sixth of the January peak.
Ministers are planning to use vaccine passports as a short-term ‘bridge to freedom’ before full herd immunity is achieved in the autumn, The Mail on Sunday understands.
It would mean all Covid-related restrictions would be relaxed on June 21, as planned under Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’, but with the passports being used to allow the return of mass public gatherings in the summer, including capacity crowds for the start of the new Premier League season.
A decision on the single-dose Janssen jab is expected to be made within the next ten days
Government sources have also made clear that parents would not have to pay for Covid tests for under-11s as part of the new ‘traffic light’ system being introduced on May 17 for foreign travel.
Under the plans, Britons would be allowed to fly to ‘green’ countries with low Covid rates and strong vaccine rollouts, as long as they take tests before flying out and returning home.