Coronavirus vaccine will be given to NHS workers and Brits with underlying health conditions first, says health minister

NHS workers and Brits with underlying health conditions will be among the first to get a new coronavirus vaccine.

Matt Hancock said it is vital frontline health and care staff are protected as soon as a jab is available.

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People at high risk of serious disease or death will be next in line, the Health Secretary revealed during the daily Downing Street press conference tonight.

This includes those aged over 50 or living with other illnesses, such as heart, kidney or lung disease, cancer, obesity and dementia.

Ethnic minorities may also be prioritised after studies found people from black and Asian communities are among those at higher risk of dying.

Mr Hancock says ministers are throwing everything at launching a vaccine and UK trials are progressing well.

Pharma firm AstraZeneca has already started to produce and stockpile a jab developed by the University of Oxford.

It means it can be rolled out immediately if it is shown to be safe and effective.

Sources say the odds are 50/50 that it will be available for frontline staff and vulnerable patients by autumn.

VACCINE COULD BE AVAILABLE BY AUTUMN

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises ministers, has published new guidance on who would benefit most from a jab.

Mr Hancock said following the JCVI advice would protect the most at risk and “get this country back on its feet as soon as we possibly can”.

He added: “The best way to defeat this virus is the discovery of a vaccine. Since the start we've been supporting the most promising projects.

“Today we have published the way in which we propose to prioritise people for access to a vaccine as soon as one comes available.

“Just as we did with testing, we’ll be guided by the clinical science, prioritising those in most need.

“Our approach to vaccines, is to throw everything at it as fast as we can and rigorously to test and make sure that they're safe before deployment.”

The JCVI guidance, which has shaped the policy, says: “Frontline health and social care workers are at increased personal risk of exposure to infection with Covid-19 and of transmitting that infection to susceptible and vulnerable patients in health and social care settings.

“The committee considered this group to be the highest priority for vaccination.

“Vaccination of frontline health and social care workers will also help to maintain resilience in the NHS and for health and social care providers.

“The next priority for vaccination is those at increased risk of serious disease and death.

“Current evidence strongly indicates that the risk of serious disease and death increases with age and is increased in those with a number of underlying health conditions.

“Therefore, after health and social care workers, the committee advises the prioritisation of vaccination using a mortality risk-based approach."

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