GPs can begin inviting patients aged 44 for their Covid jab from today, as two-thirds of those aged 45-49 have received their first dose, NHS England has announced.
It said that a decision on inviting the rest of cohort 10 will be made ‘very shortly’, depending on ‘available supply’.
It comes as NHS England last week told GPs that the vaccination programme is expected to be rolled out to the 40-44s this week, but that practices will continue to receive no ‘new’ first-dose deliveries as there is already enough vaccine supply ‘in systems’.
An NHS England email bulletin sent to practices today said that PCN-led vaccination sites should begin inviting patients aged 44 for their jab, as the group will also be invited via text and letter to book through the national booking system from today.
It added: ‘A decision on inviting 40-43 year olds to book will be made very shortly. This phased approach is being taken in line with available supply.’
The bulletin added that the ‘priority’ is to ensure there is ‘sufficient capacity for those who need to book or re-book a 2nd dose appointment, as well as reserving sufficient supply to be able to deliver on the NHS commitment to an “evergreen” offer of vaccination for anyone in cohorts 1-9 who has yet to come forward’.
Practices should also consider ‘contingency plans’ for additional capacity in case a new marketing vaccine marketing campaign launched by the Government today results in an ‘uplift in bookings’, it said.
NHS England reiterated that it ‘[appreciates] how much pressure general practice is under, particularly as life begins to return to some semblance of normality and across general practice we now need to deal with pent-up demand’.
It comes as NHS England has announced that ‘more than two-thirds’ of those aged 45-49 have been given their first dose of the vaccine.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Now that 95% of all over 50s have had their first jab, and more than two thirds of those aged 45-49, we are opening up vaccinations to 44-year-olds.
‘The biggest vaccination programme in NHS history has delivered 45.5 million doses so far across the UK, and we are on track to offer a jab to all adults by the end of July.’
Earlier this month, GPs were told to begin offering Covid jabs to patients aged 45-49 ‘where supply permits’.
A version of this story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.