People aged 34 in England will be invited to book their Covid jab from Thursday (20 May) as the vaccination rollout is extended, the NHS has said.
More than one million people aged 34 and 35 will receive a text message on Thursday or Friday asking them to make a vaccine appointment.
The NHS added that the jab rollout is expected to reach people in their early thirties “over the next few days and weeks”.
Moving forward ‘at pace’
As well as extending the vaccine programme to younger age groups this week, health officials are speeding up the timetable of the second doses in a bid to ensure those at highest risk are protected from the Indian Covid variant that is spreading across the UK.
This means that appointments for the remaining people in the top nine priority groups, which includes the over 50s and clinically vulnerable, will be brought forward from 12 weeks to eight weeks for those yet to receive their second dose.
This is to ensure that people across the UK have the strongest possible protection from the virus at an earlier opportunity.
Government guidance states that people should continue to attend their second dose appointments and they do not need to contact the NHS. Instead, the NHS will let those who should bring their second appointment forward know, when they are able to do so.
People who are aged under 50 will continue to get their first dose, with the second dose 12 weeks later, as has been the deployment strategy so far.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has urged people to come forward for their jab when called, after warning the variant can “spread like wildfire” among those who have not been vaccinated.
He said: “Our vaccination programme – the fastest and most successful in NHS history – moves forward at pace with 34 and 35-year-olds now being invited for the jab.
“This is incredible news and means we remain on track to hit our target of offering a vaccine to all adults by the end of July.
“The vaccine is our way out of the pandemic and the key to getting back to normal.
“I’m delighted that 70 per cent of adults across the country have already been vaccinated with their first dose, and 40 per cent with their second.
“We have one of the highest uptake rates in the world but we’ll continue to do everything we can to make sure no one is left behind. Please come forward for the jab once you get the offer – it could save your life and protect your loved ones.”
More than 70% adults vaccinated
Figures released by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on Wednesday (19 May) show that more than 70 per cent of the adult population in the UK have now been vaccinated against coronavirus.
Health services had administered 57.8 million vaccines, including 36.9 million people with their first dose, amounting to 70.2 per cent of the adult population.
Meanwhile, 20.8 million people, almost two-fifths (39.6 per cent) of the adult population, had received both doses.
The vaccination programme in Northern Ireland is now extending to include people aged 25 and over, while NHS leaders in Scotland are encouraging people aged 30 and over to come forward for their jab.
In Wales, some 43 per cent of 18 to 29-year-olds have already had their first jab and 62 per cent of those aged 20 to 39 have had their first dose.
Vaccination experts have previously advised that people under the age of 40 should receive an alternative vaccine to the AstraZeneca vaccine, due to concerns the jab is linked to extremely rare cases of blood clots.
As such, this means that most people under 40 who are invited for the vaccine over the coming weeks will instead be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Commenting on the success of the vaccine rollout so far, Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: “The success of the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme, the biggest in history, is not by accident but down to careful planning and precision by NHS staff who have now delivered 48.5 million doses across England in less than six months.
“Getting the vaccine is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities against Covid 19, so when you’re called forward, book your appointment and join the tens of millions who have already been jabbed.”