London, May 20 (PTI) Britain's Prince William has received his first dose of a vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and used the moment to express his gratitude to frontline healthcare workers for their efforts with the country’s further expanding vaccine rollout programme.
The 38-year-old second-in-line to the British throne, who had kept his COVID-19 positive test during the first wave of the pandemic in April 2020 under wraps to avoid causing “worry”, received his jab on Tuesday and released an image on Twitter on Thursday morning.
“On Tuesday I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. To all those working on the vaccine rollout – thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do,” said William, the Duke of Cambridge, in his message on Twitter.
It is not yet known if his 39-year-old wife, Kate Middleton, has received her first vaccine dose as well. His 95-year-old grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and his father Prince Charles, 72, have all spoken about receiving their first doses earlier this year.
William’s confirmation comes as the National Health Service (NHS) expanded its vaccination programme further from over-36s to now cover all those aged 34 and over. Text messages inviting people to book a vaccination will be sent to those aged 34 and 35 from Thursday. Younger groups in their thirties are expected to be invited over the next few days and weeks, with all adults expected to be eligible from next month.
“This is incredible news and means we remain on track to hit our target of offering a vaccine to all adults by the end of July,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
The minister had told a Downing Street briefing on Wednesday evening that there is “increasing confidence” that the vaccines are effective against all variants, including the B1.617.2 variant first discovered in India currently under strict monitoring in the UK.
“The early evidence suggests that the B.1.617.2 variant, first discovered in India, passes on more easily from person to person than the B.117 variant, first discovered in Kent,” said Hancock.
“We’ve always known one of the things that has the potential to knock us off track would be a new variant. That’s why we made the presence of a new variant that could do that one of our four tests when we set out the roadmap, which are the steps we must pass before going down each step of the roadmap,” he said, in reference to plans to completely lift lockdown restrictions from June 21 under the government's current roadmap.
As the UK registered 2,967 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant, the minister said the data remains under constant review even as additional measures are being deployed.
“Mobility data shows travel patterns in different areas, and we look at this in deciding where the virus is at risk of spreading. Next, we now analyse wastewater in 70 per cent of the country, and we can spot the virus, and the variants in the water, and that can help us identify communities where there is spread,” said Hancock.
“What this means in practice is putting in place more testing – more testing sites – and on vaccinations, we are making more vaccinations available to everyone who’s eligible. To everybody across the whole country, I’d urge vigilance as we open up and of course, as soon as you’re able to, to get the jab,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the advice of the government and Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the NHS said people aged 50 and over and the clinically vulnerable are having their second doses brought forward to counter the spread of the B.1.617.2 variant.
“Getting the vaccine is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities against Covid-19, so when you’re called forward, book your appointment and join the tens of millions who have already been jabbed,” said Professor Stephen Powis, National NHS Medical Director.
People 39 and under are being offered the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine in line with recently updated JCVI guidance, while all other age groups are being administered either of the two or the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines based on supplies. PTI AK SCY SCY