Calls for the Government to speed up the easing of lockdown have been rejected by England’s deputy chief medical officer, who said it would be wrong to “blow it now”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under pressure from a vocal group of Tory backbenchers to ease all restrictions by the end of April, rather than follow the cautious approach which will see some of England’s curbs continue until June 21 at the earliest.

But Professor Jonathan Van-Tam insisted the five-week gap between different stages is necessary to monitor the impact on infections and “I would rather do this once and get it right and not have to make any U-turns”.

He also acknowledged concerns about vaccine hesitancy in black and minority ethnic groups, and stressed that health and care staff should have a Covid-19 jab as part of their “professional responsibility” to patients.

He acknowledged there has been a “slowdown” in the vaccine rollout due to supply fluctuations but insisted he is confident that the targets of giving a first dose to the top nine priority groups by mid-April and to all adults by the end of July will be met.

Meanwhile, Downing Street said that it was committed to ensuring people received their second jab within 12 weeks, amid suggestions a dip in the rollout had been partly caused by supplies being reserved for second doses.

In other developments:

– The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the Government and the NHS to invite more people with learning disabilities to receive Covid-19 vaccines.

– Education Secretary Gavin Williamson did not rule out longer school days or shortened summer breaks to help pupils in England catch up after coronavirus disruption as he set out a £700 million support package.

– Ghana became the first country in the world to receive coronavirus vaccines through the United Nations-backed Covax initiative.

Prof Van-Tam defended England’s “painstakingly cautious” but “appropriate” four-step road map.

The Covid Recovery Group of Tories has called for an earlier exit from restrictions if infections keep falling and the vaccine rollout progresses, but No 10 officials have played down the prospect of the road map being accelerated.

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The gaps between stages are necessary to measure the impact of relaxations due to the lag between people getting infected and needing hospital treatment, Prof Van-Tam said.

“If, for example, you react too quickly and say ‘Oh, it’s all going marvellously, look, infection rates are coming down’ and you don’t wait for that lag to see what the impact is on hospitalisations and deaths, then you’re always at risk of getting it wrong and going too fast.”

Prof Van-Tam said he understands people’s frustrations with the pace of the road map.

“I completely get it, I am desperate for the football to be back, but actually I would rather do this once and get it right and not have to make any U-turns or backtracking, I would rather just go slowly and steadily and get there in one go.”

After all the effort that has gone into controlling the virus and developing vaccines “I don’t want to blow it now”, he added.

On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Prof Van-Tam called for health and care workers to take the vaccines they have been offered.

NHS England has said around 88% of patient-facing NHS Trust health care workers in England are likely to have had their first dose of a vaccine by now.

But there are no published vaccine uptake figures for people working in social care.

Prof Van-Tam said healthcare workers have a “professional responsibility to take steps themselves to prevent them from being in a position where they could harm patients through infectious diseases they might have”.

He added: “The other way of framing this is saying, if you’re a consumer of healthcare, if you’re a patient or a relative, would you prefer a healthcare worker to attend you or your relative if they have been vaccinated against Covid, or would you not really mind either way?”

He sought to reassure anyone wishing to become pregnant about the safety of vaccines, saying there is a lot of “nonsense out there” about their supposed effects on fertility.

“There’s just no evidence at all that there are any issues in relation to planning a family, or fertility,” he said.

“So if you’re in a risk condition and you’re called, then my advice would be to get on and take the vaccine.”

It is not “biologically logical” for the vaccine to have an impact on fertility, he said.

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On Sky, Prof Van-Tam admitted to concerns about the uptake of the vaccine within black and minority ethnic groups, as well as in deprived parts of the UK.

“I am concerned about it, I know there is hesitancy in some of the black and minority ethnic communities and I know it’s been an issue for decades that it is always more difficult to get high uptake of vaccines and other preventative healthcare services in areas of unfortunately low prosperity, high deprivation of the UK.

“This is not a new problem but it is one that greatly concerns me because we need very high uptake.”

Prof Van-Tam said high uptake will “give us the best chance of moving from where we are now – which, let’s face it, is quite a bit better than where we were a month ago – to where we really want to be by the time the road map is complete in the early summer”.

He acknowledged there are “supply fluctuations” for the vaccines and it could take “a few months” for manufacturers to get into a steady routine for production.