Tens of thousands of people across the South East asked to shield earlier this month are being invited for their coronavirus vaccination this week, alongside 64 year olds.
Earlier this month public health officials identified 1.7 million more people nationally who are at additional risk from coronavirus earlier this month.
Most have already had their first dose of the vaccine, with the remaining 600,000 now being invited to book a slot at a Vaccination Centre or pharmacy service to get it as soon as possible.
Letters are also now landing on the doorsteps of the tens of thousands of people in the region who are aged 64 who have not yet been vaccinated.
The letters come as further vaccination sites, including the Madejski Stadium in Reading and the SAGA building in Ramsgate, came online this week.
Those who receive the letters can book online or, if they cannot do that, call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.
People booking through this system can pick a slot at 17 large scale vaccination centres or over 27 pharmacy services in the region.
The NHS vaccination programme across the South East has delivered almost two and a half million first doses of the jab.
The latest priority groups have been invited to come forward after everyone in a care home, health and social care workers, people aged 70 and over and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, were offered their jab ahead by the middle of February.
Last week the NHS began vaccinating people aged 65-69 years old through the national booking service, and over two-thirds of this group have already now been vaccinated.
Those in these groups who have not yet had their first dose remain eligible and are being urged to come forward as soon as possible.
GPs are currently inviting people who are defined as clinically vulnerable – living with an underlying health condition like chronic kidney or heart disease – to be vaccinated.
Following the update to the JCVI’s advice to government on Wednesday (24 Feb), this will include all adults on the GP Learning Disability register with immediate effect.
Dr Vaughan Lewis, Medical Director for the NHS in the South East said: “NHS staff, volunteers and other partners across South East have done an incredible job so far delivering the largest vaccination drive in our history, at the same time as dealing with high levels of Covid-19 hospital patients. 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 letter today or whether you’ve put it off for whatever reason – please do come forward and get your vital first dose as soon as possible. Local services are going to great lengths to ensure that local people can get this protection in a safe and convenient place.
“If this isn’t you yet, you can still play your part by waiting to be invited. When we do contact you, please attend your booked appointments at exactly the time you’re asked to; and whether you have had your vaccine or not, please continue to follow all the guidance in place to protect yourself and others from the virus.”
People who book into a vaccine centre will be greeted by volunteers who will marshal car parks and register them when they arrive.
They will receive a health status check and a pre-vaccination assessment before they have their jab.
Appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people who do book are being asked not to turn up early to avoid creating queues.
GPs are contacting those who are housebound to vaccinate them at home.
Vaccines are currently being administered at over 1,600 sites across the country including mosques and museums to rugby grounds and cathedrals, with the spread of sites chosen to ensure that more than 98% of the country lives within 10 miles of at least one vaccination service.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS Medical Director, said: “The NHS vaccination programme is the biggest in health service’s history and continues to go from strength to strength.
“Hard working NHS staff have already protected more than 15 million of the most vulnerable people against Covid in a matter of weeks.
“However, if you have already been offered a jab, especially if you’re aged 70 or over, but have not taken it up it is not too late. Please come forward so the NHS can protect you against coronavirus immediately.”
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 December 8.
The NHS was also the first health system to deliver the new Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine when Brian Pinker, 82, was vaccinated at Churchill Hospital, Oxford on January 4.