NHS chief praises staff as COVID jabs campaign starts new phase

The head of the NHS today praised staff as the NHS vaccination programme enters a new phase, with people aged 65 and over together with an expanded group of clinically vulnerable people now receiving the life-saving COVID jab.

Over one million people aged 65 and over have now been invited to book a vaccination, with another 1.2 million set to be invited throughout the week, and the first to book in will be jabbed this morning.

Figures released yesterday showed that across the UK the NHS had vaccinated 15 million of the most vulnerable people, in line with the deadline set by the Government.

That includes 13,165,548 delivered in England alone, of which 12,675,663 were first doses.

The NHS vaccination programme is the biggest in the health service’s history and chief executive Sir Simon Stevens praised the “extraordinary” efforts of GPs, nurses, pharmacists, volunteers and thousands of others in protecting millions of people in just 10 weeks.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Hitting this milestone just 10 weeks after the NHS made history by delivering the first COVID vaccination outside of a clinical trial is a remarkable shared achievement.

“The NHS vaccination programme is the biggest and fastest in Europe – and in the health service’s history – and that is down to the skill, care, and downright hard work of our fantastic staff, supported by local communities, volunteers and the armed forces.

“On behalf of the whole country it’s right to mark this successful first phase with a huge thank you to everyone involved in this extraordinary team effort.”

Sir Simon was speaking ahead of a visit to Oxford where he will review rollout of the next phase of the vaccination programme with NHS staff and volunteers, and discuss progress with the lead Oxford University researcher whose team developed the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine and is now testing new COVID booster jabs.

Penny Thewlis, 67, a vaccination volunteer and chief executive of Age UK Oxfordshire, is one of those getting her life-saving jab today at the Kassam Stadium, home of Oxford United football club.

Penny will receive her jab from Professor Andrew Pollard who helped lead the development of the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine at the city’s University.

The NHS made history in January when Brian Pinker became the first person in the world to receive the Oxford / Astra Zeneca vaccine outside of a clinical trial.

Since then the NHS has been working through the first four priority groups, including offering vaccination to people aged 70 and over, care homes, the extremely clinically vulnerable and health and care staff.

In the next phase, GPs have been asked to offer jabs to clinically vulnerable patients, while people aged 65 and over will in the first instance be invited to book a vaccination at one of the vaccination centres.

Carers will also be offered the chance to get vaccinated.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “The Government, NHS and those administering the COVID-19 vaccines have made excellent progress in the last 10 weeks.

“Being called for the vaccine in this next phase will bring many unpaid carers a huge sense of relief, having carefully managed the risk of the virus to themselves and their older or disabled relatives for almost a year.

“Carers should wait to be called to book an appointment, and once vaccinated some of the hardest-pressed carers will be able to access support with their caring role for the first time in many months.

“This will be the biggest identification programme of unpaid carers ever carried out and should see more carers connected to local support systems.”

People who have received a letter can log on to the national booking service at and choose from more than 100 large scale vaccination centres or almost 200 pharmacy services.

Anyone unable to book online can call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.

Five more large scale vaccination centres will also open their doors from this week, joining over 1,500 sites already in place across the country, including mosques and museums to rugby grounds and cathedrals.

The five new sites starting to jab from this week are:

  • Alderley Park Conference centre
  • Burnely Mall
  • Chester Race Course
  • Preston St Johns
  • Westgate Chichester

People who book into a vaccine centre will be greeted by volunteers who will marshal car parks and register people when they arrive.

They will receive a health status check and a pre-vaccination assessment before they have their jab.

Appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people who do book are being asked not to turn up early to avoid creating queues.

GPs are continuing to contact those who are housebound to jab them at home.