Almost 2 million people aged between 60 and 63 years will be invited in the current phase, after those aged over 64 years were covered in the previous one.
The U.K.’s vaccination programme against COVID-19 enters a new phase on February 28 as the National Health Service (NHS) will begin contacting all aged over 60 to book their jabs at the nearest vaccination centre or with a general practitioner (GP) or pharmacy.
Almost 2 million people aged between 60 and 63 years will be invited in the current phase, after those aged over 64 years were covered in the previous one. Letters will start arriving from March 1, with details on how to make an appointment for the jab.
“Our incredible vaccination programme is accelerating and well over one in three people across the U.K. have now received their first jab,” said Nadhim Zahawi, U.K. Vaccine Deployment Minister.
“We are now inviting those aged 60 to 63 to receive their vaccines and I urge everybody to come forward as quickly as possible to protect yourself and others from this terrible virus. Thank you to everyone on the frontline, including NHS vaccinators, GPs, pharmacists and volunteers, whose unrivalled dedication to protect the most vulnerable should be applauded,” he said.
“The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in the health service’s history and fastest in Europe, goes from strength to strength. I would urge anyone who has been invited to take up the offer – it doesn’t matter when you were invited you can still come forward and protect yourself and others,” said Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director.
The push to get as many of the at-risk people protected means nine in 10 people in the top four priority groups have received a jab. The U.K. government aims to give a jab to all those over 50 years of age and those in specific at-risk groups by April 15. ll other adults are expected to be offered their first dose by July 31.
“Since around four-fifths of 65-69 year olds have now been vaccinated, we’re rapidly working our way down the generations, with people aged 60+ now able to come forward. As vaccine supply increases in March, we’re planning for further acceleration as we head towards Easter,” said Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England.
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Office, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, added, “be reassured the queue is moving really fast and that you’re going to get to the front of the queue because it’s moving fast”.
It follows the updated recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) earlier this week that the rollout will continue to follow an age-based approach. The government has faced some calls to prioritise vaccines based on occupation, such as for teachers who will have to start reopening schools post-lockdown from next month.
“Thankfully, teachers are no more likely to catch COVID than any other member of the population who goes to work, and so trying to come up with a scheme which prioritises one professional group over another would have been complicated to put in place and wouldn’t have done what we asked the JCVI to do… which is to make sure that we minimise the people who die,” said U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock, during a Downing Street press conference on February 26.
Vaccinations are now being administered at more than 1,600 sites across England, including mosques, museums and rugby grounds, with the distribution of centres ensuring 98% of the country lives within 10 miles of at least one vaccination service.
Appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people are being asked not to turn up early to avoid creating queues. Everyone will receive a health status check and a pre-vaccination assessment before they have their jab.
NHS teams are also visiting those who are house-bound and cannot travel to a vaccination service.
All four U.K. nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – will follow the approach recommended by the JCVI and begin expanding the age groups eligible for jabs over the course of the next few months.