Patients aged 45 and over can now book Covid vaccine appointments via the national booking system, according to an alert from the NHS England Twitter account this morning.
It followed confirmation from the Government that the next phase of the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme will launch later this week.
The Government also confirmed that all over-50s, the clinically extremely vulnerable, and health and social care workers have been offered a first dose of the vaccine.
This means 32 million people have now received a first dose, slightly ahead of the Government’s 15 April target.
Meanwhile, 21 sites across England began delivering the Moderna vaccine today (12 April) – the third vaccine to be used in the UK’s programme.
Moderna is a two-dose vaccine, which can be administered at an interval of between four and 12 weeks.
Similar to the Pfizer vaccine, it will be used by the NHS for appointments for some under-30s who will no longer receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, following updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
It comes after a recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that all adults under 30 should receive an alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca, amid reports of extremely rare blood clotting events.
JCVI: reach-out to over-50s in phase 2
The JCVI has also today published its final advice for the second phase of the vaccination programme, which will continue to follow an age-based approach.
It advised that there is an increased risk of hospitalisation in males aged 18 to 49 and people who are obese, and said that GPs should encourage these groups to come forward. However, it added that these groups will not be prioritised.
The committee’s report said healthcare staff should use their understanding of local systems and demographics to promote uptake in these groups.
Unlike with people aged 18 to 29, no alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered to those over age 30, it added.
Vaccination sites should also continue efforts to reach over-50s who have not been vaccinated yet.
The document added that while ‘reasons for slower coverage in people from certain ethnic minority backgrounds are unclear at present’ there is evidence that ‘addressing structural issues related to access’ can have a positive impact.
‘JCVI strongly advises that priority is given to the deployment of vaccination in the most appropriate manner to promote vaccine uptake in persons from ethnic minority backgrounds who have not yet been vaccinated,’ it said.
‘This may include planning to enable easy access to vaccination sites, supported engagement with local ethnic minority community and opinion leaders, and tailored communication with local and national coverage.’
JCVI member warns of third wave threat
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning, professor Jeremy Brown, JCVI member, warned that a third wave of the virus could still bring a high number of deaths.
He said: ‘I feel mighty relieved that we are now in a position where a very high proportion of the vulnerable population have been vaccinated so, if control of the virus is lost, then the damage it can do will be relatively restricted.
‘But when I say relatively restricted, what I mean is that a big third wave could still end up with 30,000 to 50,000 deaths, potentially, if it was a similar sort of size to the previous waves that we’ve had.’
He added that ‘although the vaccines are important, there are the components to controlling this virus that are important and that is the social distancing measures that we have’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said on BBC Breakfast today that ‘the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown’ and urged people to remain cautious.