Hundreds of thousands of text messages will be sent by the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination programme this week reminding people to bring forward their second dose appointment.
Around 650,000 texts will be sent encouraging people to get their second jab eight weeks after their first, in line with updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
The reminders are part of a concerted drive to maximise vaccinations before COVID restrictions are lifted next week.
The NHS COVID-19 Vaccination programme, the biggest in health service history, fastest in Europe and most precise in the world, has already delivered almost 68 million jabs protecting well over 38 million people with a first dose, including more than 29 million who are fully vaccinated after receiving both doses.
Sir Keith Willett, Head of the COVID-19 Vaccination programme in England, urged anyone who has not yet taken up the offer to “book in without delay so they can get maximum protection from the virus and to protect themselves and their local communities”.
So far, since mid-May, just over 2.5 million appointments have been brought forward through the national booking service.
While people don’t need to wait until they get the text, the NHS is reminding people they can book online and get an earlier appointment, with staff introducing thousands more slots to ensure everyone can get jabbed after eight weeks.
Almost two thirds of the entire adult population have already had both doses of the vaccine, since the NHS made history when Margaret Keenan received the first jab outside of a clinical trial in Coventry.
Four in five people aged 40 and over are already double jabbed, as part of the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history and the fastest in the world.
Sir Keith Willett said: “Thanks to the hard work of NHS staff and volunteers up and down the country, almost two thirds of people in England have already received two doses of the jab.
“The crucial second dose gives maximum protection against the virus and it will protect you, your family and those around you.
“As we approach 19 July, there has never been a more important time to get jabbed and it has never been easier – from pop up sites in the community to walk in centres, NHS staff are going to great lengths to ensure vaccines are as convenient as possible.
“So I urge everyone to bring their second dose appointment forward to eight weeks as soon as they can”.
Guidance on second doses was updated by the government on 5 July to ensure everyone has the strongest possible protection from the Delta variant of the virus.
Previously, an eight-week interval was only recommended for those aged 40 and over, while younger people had to wait at least 12 weeks for their second vaccine.
The push comes after recent stats show that more than six in 10 people aged 18 to 24 have now had a first dose, just over four weeks after the programme opened to that age group.
All adults can book at one of the vaccination centres, pharmacy or general practice sites across the country that are available through the national booking service.
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.