Covid: Essential shop workers could be among first vaccinated in rollout's second phase

Shop workers could be among the first people to be vaccinated in the next stage of the coronavirus vaccination programme, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock, speaking in the House of Commons, thanked shop workers for their service during the pandemic and said ministers are "looking very carefully at those professions that will need to be prioritised in phase two of the prioritisation programme". "We'll look at of course teachers and police and others," he said, "but also we'll look at shop workers and we'll make those decisions based on data".

Mr Hancock said the government is "on target" to achieve its aim of vaccinating the 13.9 million people in the top four priority groups by mid-February.

The rest of phase one will be completed in the spring, when the government aims to have vaccinated everyone in the nine priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Under phase two, the government will seek to inoculate the rest of the population, with police and teachers expected to be at the top priority for the second stage of the vaccine rollout.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said police officers, teachers and other critical workers will be in the “highest category of phase two”.

Some 2,286,572 people in the UK have received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine, with almost 400,000 of them having also received their second jab.

Mr Hancock, who was responding to MPs' queries in a session of questions to the secretary of state for health and social care, said everyone should be able to get a vaccine "locally", with the government aiming to set up a mass Covid vaccination centre within ten miles of most people's homes.

He said if people are offered a vaccine at a centre they feel is too far away, they will be offered a jab at a closer location.

On the rollout of vaccines so far, the health secretary told MPs: "We have now, as of the early hours of this morning, vaccinated 39.9% of the over-80 year-olds in England.

"We will reach all over-80 year-olds and ensure that they have the offer of a vaccine over the coming weeks and we'll reach all of the top four priority groups by February 15.

"We're on track and I'm confident that we'll deliver that."