The UK is moving into the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme as the government hits its target to offer everybody in phase 1 of the vaccination programme a jab.
Everybody in cohorts 1 to 9 – those aged 50 and over, the clinically vulnerable and health and social care workers – has been offered a vaccine, meeting the government’s 15 April target ahead of time.
This group accounts for 99% of all COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic, so by offering them the vaccine, we are helping ensure the most vulnerable are protected from the virus.
The significant milestone marks the beginning of phase 2 of the vaccination programme and people aged 45 to 49 in England can now book appointments through the NHS booking service.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published its final advice on phase 2 today, which the government has accepted.
In line with the JCVI advice, eligible people will be invited to receive their vaccines in order of age over the coming weeks and months.
Speaking in the House, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
I’m delighted that across the UK, we’ve met our target to offer a vaccine to everyone in the top 9 priority groups, ahead of the deadline of 15 of April.
We’ve now delivered a first dose to over 32 million people, and are on track to offer a vaccine to all adults by the end of July.
This weekend we also saw a record number of second doses, so overall, as of midnight last night, we have now delivered more than 40 million doses of vaccines right across the UK. It’s a remarkable achievement.
Today, the JCVI has published its final advice on an age-based prioritisation, which we accept in full.
I can announce formally, that from today we have opened up invitations to get a vaccine to all aged over 45, and then we will proceed to everyone aged over 40 in line with supplies.
Finally, following a successful start last week in Wales, the Moderna vaccine will be rolled out in England from today.
I’m very grateful to everybody involved in this vaccination programme, which allows us to lift restrictions across the country and already has saved over 10,000 lives, with more to come.
In England, around 95% of people aged 50 and over have received a first dose, while 92% of people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 have also received a vaccine.
The NHS will continue to offer vaccines to people in cohorts 1 to 9 who have not yet come forward and will be offering people their second doses within 12 weeks in line with the guidance from the JCVI.
Speaking in the House, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:
I would like to pay tribute to our fantastic NHS, our frontline vaccinators, our volunteers, armed forces, local authorities and all those working on the vaccination programme.
I’m very grateful for their tireless efforts in vaccinating those most at risk across the country.
We are making phenomenal progress, but we continue to remained focused to make sure nobody is left behind.
The government is on track to hit its target of offering a vaccine to all adults by the end of July.
The NHS booking service has opened to people aged 45 to 49 in England today and NHS England will be writing to all primary care networks today asking them to begin inviting the same age group to receive their vaccines.
People aged 49 are set to receive texts inviting them to book appointments in the coming days. This will be followed by others in cohort 10 in order of age over the coming weeks and months.
The speed of the vaccination programme means even more people will soon develop strong protection from serious illness from COVID-19 infection, saving countless lives and significantly reducing pressure on the NHS, which supports the Prime Minister’s roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions.
All vaccines being used in the UK have undergone robust clinical trials and have met the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA’s) strict standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.
The Moderna vaccine is already being rolled out across the UK and will be deployed in England today at more than 20 sites.
Rolling reviews are underway by the MHRA to assess the Janssen and Novavax vaccines.
Data from Public Health England’s real-world study shows that both the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective in reducing COVID-19 among older people aged 70 years and over. There has already been a significant impact of the vaccination programme on reducing hospitalisations and deaths, with more than 10,000 lives saved by vaccinations between December and March.
The vaccines are available free of charge from thousands of NHS vaccine centres, GP practices and pharmacies. Around 98% of people live within 10 miles of a vaccination centre in England, which includes mosques, community centres and football stadiums.