All over 18s could be invited to receive a first Covid jab “within weeks” amid concerns about the spread of the Delta variant among young people.
First doses are currently only being offered to adults aged 30 and over, while health officials are concentrating on giving older age groups their second vaccines.
However, it is understood that UK Government ministers are planning to make the jabs available for all age groups due to fears that the variant first identified in India is being transmitted by teenagers.
It comes as the proposed unlocking on 21 June - the final stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap - edges closer, with the Prime Minister so far saying nothing in the data suggests that lockdown restrictions should not be lifted then.
But concerns have been raised by health experts in the worst-affected areas in the country where the Delta strain is being transmitted between younger people.
‘Exceptionally high rate’ of Covid among teenagers
Dominic Harrison, director of public health for Blackburn and Darwen, Lancashire, spoke of an “exceptionally high rate” among people aged 17 and 18 and insisted that teenagers should be given the vaccine.
“Now the USA, Canada, Singapore and the European Union have all in the last week said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective for 12 years and above I just hope the UK Government can get on with passing that,” he BBC Radio 4’s World At One.
“Assuming that they agree that we could then get into rapid vaccination for that cohort, before the end of term, because that would help not just with protecting the whole population through an increased number of people vaccinated, but reducing transmission in that group.”
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is looking at following the lead of other countries by approving the vaccine for use for under 18s.
And the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is considering whether to advise ministers and the NHS on offering first doses to teenagers.
‘We’re going to see more cases’
Meanwhile, Dr Hilary told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday (2 June) that the pandemic is far from over in the UK.
He warned viewers that there is a “lag time” between rising cases and hospitalisations and Covid is still spreading across the country.
Dr Hilary added: “Numbers are increasing again and if restrictions being eased right now mean people getting together on the beaches in parks, in pubs and restaurants, of course we’re going to see more cases.
“And only 75% of adults have had their first dose, so that means about 15m people haven’t been vaccinated at all. So we’re going to see more cases.”
The UK is poised to mark a huge milestone in the coronavirus jab rollout with two-thirds of the adult population receiving their first dose.
It is expected to come the day after no deaths within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 were reported for the first time since 30 July last year.
Experts urging PM against 21 June unlocking
However, a growing number of experts have strongly advised Mr Johnson against lifting lockdown restrictions on 21 June.
Leading government scientific adviser Professor Ravi Gupta said earlier this week that a month-long delay could have a significant impact on hospital admissions.
Speaking to Good Morning Britain on Tuesday (1 June), he said: “Even a month delay could have a big impact on the eventual outcome of this.
“As long as it’s clear to people this is not an unlimited extension of the lockdown but actually just a reassessment, that would be realistic.
“Because we didn’t plan for the 617.2 variant when the initial roadmap was made, and actually things have gone really well except for the fact that we have this new variant to complicate things.
“We must remember this is a virus that does adapt, and faced with vaccines it will eventually start to make mutations to avoid them even further, and then we could be in an even more precarious situation after that.”
And British Medical Association (BMA) council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has said: “The government must hold off making a final decision on whether lockdown is fully lifted on June 21 until the latest data can be scientifically considered.
“The Prime Minister had pledged he would be guided by ‘data not dates’, and it’s vital that he now honours this commitment.”