Covid vaccinations in the east of England hit 2.3 million as NHS text message vaccination alerts are sent to millions of vulnerable people in England

As more than 2.3 million Covid vaccinations are given so far in the east of England, the NHS is texting millions of vulnerable people urging them to get a life-saving Covid jab as the biggest vaccination programme in health service history continues to accelerate.

The messages are part of a renewed drive to protect those with underlying conditions such as diabetes and some forms of cancer. GPs have already been inviting those with the conditions from their patient lists.

Now the NHS is texting them with a link that enables them to arrange a jab at a vaccination centre or pharmacy-led service at the touch of a button – people living in the east of England can access more than 40 large scale vaccination centres or 18 pharmacy services.

Last weekend more than 1.3 million appointments were arranged in England through the national booking service as people aged 55 and over were invited to get a jab.

The vast majority booked online, while a smaller number booked by calling 119 which offers additional support when booking their jab.

Messages will be sent using the Government’s secure Notify service and will show as being sent from ‘NHSvaccine’. The NHS will never ask for payment or banking details.

If people cannot or would prefer not to travel to a Vaccination Centre or pharmacy-led site, they can choose to wait to be invited by a local GP-led service.

Ann Radmore, Regional Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement in the East of England, said: “The vaccination programme across the east of England continues to make really strong progress, thanks to the thousands of NHS staff, volunteers and other partners involved, and we are seeing the early signs that this is driving down hospital cases and ultimately saving lives.

“Tens of thousands more people have now been invited, in line with expert advice on who should be vaccinated right now, and if this is you – whether you’re just getting the invite or whether you’ve put it off for whatever reason – please do come forward and get your vital first dose as soon as possible.

“If this isn’t you yet, you can still play your part by waiting to be invited and continuing to follow all the guidance in place to protect yourself and others from the virus.”

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

NHS teams are also visiting those who are housebound and cannot travel to a vaccination service.

The NHS made history when 90-year-old Maggie Keenan became the first person in the world to be vaccinated against coronavirus outside of a clinical trial when she received the Pfizer vaccine at Coventry Hospital on the 8 December.

Just hours later, Arthur, 86, and his wife, Barbara, 82, received their dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Milton Keynes University Hospital, making history as the first patients to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in the East of England.

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 99% of the country lives within 10 miles of at least one vaccination service.

In the East of England sites such as Chelmsford Stadium racecourse, Saxon Court Civic Offices in Milton Keynes, and the Castle Quarter Food Court in Norwich have all been repurposed to host vaccination hubs, with hospitals, GPs and even community pharmacies rolling out the jab to those people most in need.

Overall there are more than 200 sites now delivering vaccines in the East of England.