Two fully vaccinated people could meet up and it would be “incredibly safe”, England’s deputy chief medical officer said.
Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference he is “highly confident” a meet-up between two vaccinated people who have received a Covid-19 jab wouldn’t have huge risk.
But he said people in England are currently prevented from doing so as the younger population still need to be immunised.
Mr Van-Tam was responding to why such contact is possible in the US but not in the UK, where a quarter of adults have had both doses of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer jab.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the briefing a decision had been made to move as a united country towards greater freedoms – as set down in the Government’s lockdown roadmap.
Should people who’ve had two vaccine doses be allowed to meet? Let us know in the comments
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said fully vaccinated people can start doing some of the things they did before the pandemic.
It says that two weeks after a second dose, people can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or social distancing.
They can also gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without social distancing unless that household has somebody vulnerable to Covid.
Asked why England will not follow the US, Mr Hancock said: “The decision we’ve taken… is to move together, that’s what the road map does.
“As you know, in the autumn we moved different parts of the country according to the rates that we saw in those areas.
“That had some advantages but it also had a disadvantage that we then saw in the areas where we had fewer restrictions we saw cases pop up.
“So we took the decision when we wrote the road map that we all move as one, and I think that is very widely supported.”
Prof Van-Tam said: “If two people who both had two doses of vaccine and have both served at least 14 days after their second dose, then I would be highly confident scientifically that if they were reputable vaccines then indeed it would be incredibly safe for those two people to meet.”
On when that could happen in the UK, he said: “Soon, I really hope soon, but not quite now.”
He warned that people under 42, apart from the clinically extremely vulnerable “in whom the vaccine may be slightly less effective” and healthcare workers, still haven’t had the vaccine.
“I know this feels tantalisingly, extremely close, and it is going to be frustrating at times for people, particularly those who’ve had their two doses,” he said.
“But we just need to make sure we don’t have to go backwards again on any of this and just hold the line a teeny bit longer.”
It comes after Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England (PHE), earlier told MPs that part of the reason the country was not following the US in allowing greater freedoms was cultural.
Dr Ramsay told the Commons Science and Technology Committee the UK’s policy of leaving up to 12 weeks between vaccine doses – a move she said has saved lives – means the UK is behind the US when it comes to fully vaccinated individuals.
“I think they (US) are able to be less cautious, perhaps, than us because of the fact that more people have had two doses, which one would expect to get even better protection against transmission,” she said.
“Our data is now coming through showing that even one dose is very good (against transmission), so I think we can begin to look at those factors and we are looking at those factors.
“I think the other thing is we have a slightly different cultural perspective in this country in that we tend to do everything together.
“We are trying to say that this is about the population as a whole rather than the individuals, those privileged individuals who have had two doses, being somehow able to do things that other people cannot.”
Dr Ramsay also told MPs it was “very important” that as many people as possible are vaccinated before all restrictions are eased.
“As more people get vaccinated, we are releasing gradually, we’re observing what happens, and then that’s allowing us to carry on, but it does depend on what the future holds, how people behave, how the vaccine works.”