Want to know when you'll be vaccinated against coronavirus? Read on for more on the vaccine calculator that estimates when you'll be invited to get your first and second doses...
Since December, the UK has been successfully rolling out its COVID-19 vaccination programme. The Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are now being offered out to those most in need around the country, and the Moderna vaccine is expected to be available in the spring. At current, more than 17.5 million people in Britain have been given the jab, and the government recently declared that every adult in the country should have received at least one dose by July 31, which is a full month earlier than they had previously suggested.
Yesterday, Boris Johnson announced a four-stage plan that will guide us out of lockdown in England. The steps gradually ease more and more restrictions, but will ultimately be dictated by the number of coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths. However, with the vaccine roll-out running concurrently - and with the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs so far showing a "substantial effect" in cutting the risk of hospital admissions and serious illness - everyone is hopeful that numbers should remain low enough for each stage of reopening to happen as planned.
But considering the way everything has unfolded over the past year, it's hard not to be cynical that things might still not work out as planned. So you'll probably be wondering specifically when you're likely to be offered it. And luckily, there's a handy online vaccine calculator that might just be able to give you a better idea of where you are in the queue.
For those eager to find out when they'll be offered the COVID-19 vaccination, Omni Calculator is running a Vaccine Queue Calculator for the UK. It asks you to input a series of information - including your age, whether you're a care home or health worker, if you're currently pregnant, and more - and then it works out roughly when you might be expected to receive an invite for a dose, based on the most recent roll-out rate across the country. You can try it for yourself here.
As a healthy 30-year-old woman, not working in a caregiving role, I wasn't personally surprised to learn that there are between 15 million and 27 million people in front of me in the queue for a COVID vaccine across the UK. The tool calculated that, at the current roll-out rate (which, in the past 7 days was just over 2.5 million doses per week), I could expect to be offered the first dose of the vaccine any time between mid May and end of July this year. The calculator suggests I should have the second administered somewhere between mid August and mid October.
Those estimations are encouraging, and it means all the people in greater need than me will be even closer to gaining some level of immunity from the virus. The government has always been decisive about the fact age would be the "biggest priority" (in the words of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam) when working out who would be offered the jab first. And quite rightly so; coronavirus is known to pose a greater risk the older you are. Last year, during the first wave of the pandemic, over-70s were requested to shield for several months regardless of any pre-existing health conditions.
However, it was recently announced that other factors are now being taken into consideration when it comes to working out who's a priority for getting a jab. The government's vaccine task-force previously drew up a list to lay out who is eligible for the vaccination first, but a further 1.7 million people have now also been urged to shield if any of their characteristics put them at higher risk of serious illness resulting from the virus. Here's the original order of priority, which still stands:
Who will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine first?
Older adults' resident in a care home and care home workers
All those 80 years of age and over, and health and social care workers
All those 75 years of age and over
All those 70 years of age and over
All those 65 years of age and over
High-risk adults under 65 years of age
Moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age
All those 60 years of age and over
All those 55 years of age and over
All those 50 years of age and over
Rest of the population (priority to be determined)
Added into the mix for the priority list are now people whose ethnicity or high BMI puts them more at risk, as well as any medication they're taking, whether they're a smoker, and their housing situation. It moves us away from simply assessing occupation, age, and medical history in terms of vulnerability to coronavirus, and definitely makes sense, given that research shows those who are overweight and who are from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background have a higher chance of falling seriously ill with COVID.
Does the vaccine stop the spread of the virus, as well as stopping people getting sick?
This was something experts couldn't be sure of prior to the vaccine being rolled out. While the vaccine trials showed high efficacy rates in preventing sickness from COVID-19 in those who had the jabs, it wasn't clear whether those who have been vaccinated could still unknowingly spread the virus (even if it hadn't taken hold in their own bodies thanks to their immunity).
In exciting news reported recently, a study (which is yet to be officially published) has suggested that the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine is having a "substantial" effect on reducing the transmission of the virus. Similarly, studies on the Pfizer vaccine in Israel (where around 32% of the population is fully vaccinated) have showed that it's stopped 89.4% of virus transmission in the country. This is encouraging news; if vaccinated people are less likely to be able to spread the virus, we have more chance of properly curbing its spread across the population.
Will we need vaccine boosters yearly?
As it stands, the UK has ordered a total of 407 million doses of seven different coronavirus vaccines. Most require two doses, meaning there's more than enough for at least 200 million people to be vaccinated. But... hang on. Our population is around 67 million, so how come we're buying more vaccines than we have people?
There are two possible reasons for that. Firstly, it may be because we are planning to donate some of our vaccine supplies to other countries who are in need. As it stands, just one of the 29 poorest countries in the world has received any jabs, and that's Guinea who had 55 donated by Russia. But if we don't vaccinate globally, it's hard to see how we'll overcome the pandemic.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, World Health Organisation spokesperson Margaret Harris, said earlier in February: "There have been a number of very interesting analyses showing that just vaccinating your own country and then sitting there and saying 'we’re fine' won’t work economically. That phrase 'no man is an island' applies economically as well… Unless we get all societies working effectively once again, every society will be financially affected."
The other suggestion as to why the government has bought so many more vaccines than they have people is that the vaccine programme may be ongoing over the coming years. As the virus mutates, it's possible that people will need a booster jab to maintain immunity, although there is currently no scientific evidence to confirm this either way.
By placing bulk orders for next year (and with the option to order more for years to come - 90 million additional Valneva doses have been optioned for 2023 and 2025 if needed) it suggests the government is planning for the possibility of revaccinating the population.
But whether we end up needing more vaccinations in the years to come or not, I think the one thing we can all agree on is that the existence of the vaccine and the four-stage roadmap out of lockdown is providing some light at the end of this very, very dark coronavirus tunnel. Thank F for that.
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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