COVID jabs rush as NHS vaccine programme opens to all adults

More than 700,000 life-saving COVID jabs were booked on the day that the NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in health service history, was opened up to people aged 18 to 20.

People rushed to make 721,469 appointments through the national booking service on Friday, more than 30,000 an hour or more than eight every second.

That does not include appointments made through local GP-led vaccination services or people getting jabbed at walk-in centres.

Everyone aged 18 and over is being urged to arrange a jab if they have not yet had one as the health service enters the final push to protect the country against the virus.

From walk in services at sports grounds, including Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Stamford Bridge as well as Ashton Gate and St Helen’s Rugby Ground, to pop up clinics at universities such as in York and Canterbury, NHS staff are pulling out the stops to offer convenient jab appointments.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “This pandemic has been a challenge for everyone but the various restrictions have hit young people particularly hard. That’s why it’s good news that COVID vaccinations are now open to all adults across the country, and already well over three million people in their twenties have now had their first jab.

“So if you’re 18 and over and haven’t yet had yours, now’s the time. It’s the single easiest way to protect yourself, keep friends and family safe, and hopefully give us all our summer freedoms back.

“Please encourage your friends and loved ones to do the same, as we’re now in the race to the finish line. The more of us who are vaccinated, the safer we all are, and the sooner freedom can return.”

The bookings surge came at the end of another bumper week which had already seen almost 1.8 million appointments made in just three days after the NHS vaccination programme opened up to people in their early twenties.

Some 692,299 appointments were made on Tuesday when 23 and 24 year olds became eligible for a jab with another 635,478 booked on Wednesday when the NHS vaccination programme was extended to those aged 21 and 22.

There were another 456,366 appointments made on Thursday, meaning more than 2.5 million appointments were booked in just four days since booking opened to under 25s on Tuesday.

The surge follows a Glastonbury style rush for appointments last week with half a million jabs in just five hours, when the National Booking System opened for people aged 25 and over.

Over 5 million appointments were booked in since the NHS vaccine programme expanded to people in their 20s Tuesday June 8.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “It’s incredible to see the enthusiasm young people are showing for vaccination across the country, and it is a testament to the fantastic work of the team in keeping as many people safe from COVID-19 as possible.

“If you’ve yet to book your appointment, I urge you not to hesitate in getting your jab and securing this protection for yourself and your loved ones.”

So far, the NHS has given 35.5 million first doses – 80% of all adults – and 26 million people have received both doses, meaning they are fully vaccinated.

The NHS is contacting people aged 40 and over to bring forward their second dose in line with updated JCVI advice with the NHS booking service now showing earlier time slots available for those who are eligible to rebook.

Already, more than eight in 10 adults have had their first dose while around three in five half have had their vital second dose, meaning they have maximum protection possible from COVID-19.

Latest figures show the NHS in England has delivered over 60 million vaccinations just six months after making history when Margaret Keenan received the approved vaccine in Coventry.

When invited, people will be able to book at one of the 1,600 Vaccination Centre, pharmacy or general practice sites across the country that are available through the national booking service. Vaccination centres are also available in convenient locations such as mosques, museums and rugby grounds.

Text invitations appear as an alert from ‘NHSvaccine’ and include a web link to the NHS website to reserve an appointment.

People who cannot go online can call the service on 119 instead to book their jab.

People aged 39 and under who are eligible and pregnant women will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in line with updated JCVI guidance.