NHS ‘drive for the finish line’ sees intensive support to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake

The NHS will help communities across the country double down on efforts to get people vaccinated against COVID-19, with a £20 million funding injection of extra support for GPs, pharmacists and local services, as part of the NHS COVID Vaccination Programme, the largest and fastest in health service history.

Local GP and pharmacy-led vaccination sites have been at the heart of the programme, delivering around three quarters of all jabs, and now they will receive additional funding to continue their life-saving efforts.

The new money for local services can only be used on increasing staffing capacity over the next month and must be used where it is needed most to increase uptake and target health inequalities.

Local sites are also being asked to do everything they can to bring forward second dose appointments for those over 50, where possible, in line with JCVI guidance.

The money will allow these critical sites to bring in extra staff over the next month and join the more than 100,000 people jabbing up and down the country.

The latest boost for the NHS COVID Vaccination Programme follows a ‘blockbuster’ day of jab bookings in a milestone week, with a record-high number of slots snapped up in 24 hours and more than one million first and second doses reserved, on the same day as people under 30 became eligible and the whole country marked six months since the first jab was administered.

More than half of adults are now fully vaccinated giving them maximum possible protection from coronavirus, with a total of more than 58 million doses given out already.

NHS England medical director of primary care, Dr Nikki Kanani, said: “Our local GP and pharmacy sites have been an integral part of the vaccination programme, delivering around 75 per cent of the jabs administered so far, and we are incredibly thankful for them going above and beyond to keep our families and communities protected from COVID-19.”

“This additional funding gives these essential local institutions, like general practices and pharmacies, the resources to bring more staff on board and help the country drive for the finish line as we enter the final stages of the vaccine rollout.”

The rollout has continued at pace this week, expanding to those aged 25 to 29 on Tuesday when a record-breaking 1 million bookings were made in 24 hours.

Additional funding was also put in place last month to help with the challenges of rearranging appointments to bring those eligible forward from 12 weeks to eight.

The NHS is vaccinating at the rate supplies becomes available in the run up to the 31 July target of being able to offer first jabs to all adults, as well as having offered second doses to all higher risk groups.

Around 3 million text messages are being sent out over this week to those eligible asking people to book in through the national booking service, with GPs also set to urge the newly eligible to come forward over the coming days.

Text invitations, which do not expire, appear as an alert from ‘NHSvaccine’ and include a web link to the NHS website to reserve an appointment. Alternatively people can also wait to be contacted by their local GP.

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.