While the whole of the NHS doubles down to urge everyone already invited to take up the offer, new invitations are now going out nationally to millions of people aged 50 to 54 in the latest stage of the programme, the biggest in NHS history and fastest in Europe.
NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Just 100 days since the NHS gave the world’s first COVID jab outside of clinical trials, our vaccine programme passes another milestone as we now invite everyone aged 50 and over to book their vaccination.”
Today – Wednesday 17 March – marks 100 days since the NHS gave Maggie Keenan her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination on December 8 2020, and broke ground in the global race to protect people against the coronavirus.
Healthcare teams continue to urge anyone yet to be vaccinated to take up the offer as around two million additional text messages go out from today with a link allowing people also to pick a convenient slot at an NHS vaccine centre, or pharmacy-led service through the national booking service website.
People who cannot go online can call the service on 119.
The text alerts will be followed up with 2.4 million letters landing on doorsteps later in the week.
The NHS has already delivered a vaccine to more than 20 million people in England as supplies have flowed since early December, with the NHS committed to offering vaccinations as quickly as available supply allows in the coming weeks.
The latest batch of national invites follows a significant boost to bookings last week, with a major push by text message and letter prompting slots booked almost to double in 48 hours from 340,000 on March 7 to 609,000 on March 9 when texts were sent.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS England’s primary care director, said: “The number of vaccines available to the NHS will continue to go up and down week by week and month by month in line with manufacturers’ ability to supply us. But this week and next we have larger supplies, so we want anyone in the top priority groups – people aged 50 and older as well as those working in health and care and anyone with an underlying health condition – to come forward soon to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
“The success of the NHS vaccination roll-out is testament to the work of NHS staff, and as new groups of people are invited to come forward it’s exciting that we are now inviting people aged 50 and over to get their jab.
“The vaccines are both safe and effective, so if anybody who is eligible hasn’t been vaccinated yet, I’d urge them to go online or call 119 and get themselves booked in.
The NHS has been offering the vaccine to the most at risk people as soon as doses have been made available, in line with guidance form the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
More than 10 million jabs – first and second doses – have been arranged through the NHS National Booking Service.
Text invitations appear as an alert from ‘NHSvaccine’, including a web link to click and reserve an appointment at one of more than 300 large-scale vaccination centres or pharmacies across England. Text invites will also be received from local booking services through a GP-led team.
Texts will arrive in advance of the standard letter, meaning this could enable the NHS to react faster to changing vaccine supplies and fill appointments quickly.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The UK’s vaccination rollout is a national success story. It’s a tribute to everyone involved and shows what our country can achieve when we work together.
“From the Vaccines Taskforce to the NHS, our armed forces and the people coming forward in their millions to get the jab – this has been a massive national effort.
“I’m delighted we are now expanding the rollout and inviting those aged 50-54 to book appointments.
“I’m determined that no one should miss out on the chance to protect themselves and the people they love or care for, and I urge everyone who’s eligible for the vaccine to come forward.”
Vaccinations are now being administered at more than 1,600 sites across the country, including mosques, museums and rugby grounds, with the distribution of centres meaning 98% of the country lives within 10 miles of at least one vaccination service.
Appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people are being asked not to turn up early to avoid creating queues.
Everyone will receive a health status check and a pre-vaccination assessment before they have their jab.
The NHS made history when Maggie Keenan became the first person in the world to be protected against coronavirus outside of a clinical trial when she received the Pfizer vaccine at Coventry Hospital on 8 December.
The NHS was also the first health system to deliver the new Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine when Brian Pinker, 82, received his on 4 January.