Millions more people around the UK are set to be invited to receive their first Covid-19 vaccination jabs from today, with those aged over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable set to be contacted.
These two groups formed the next rung of the priority groups structure the NHS is working to with its national vaccine rollout. The priority groups were decided on and recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
So far, the NHS has been working to offer vaccinations to those in the first priority groups - care home residents and staff, and those aged 80 and over and frontline health and care staff.
These initial groups will remain the priority, but vaccination sites which have enough supply and capacity can now offer vaccinations to those from the next two cohorts.
This change is intended to allow areas which have already vaccinated the majority of its care home residents, frontline health and care staff and people aged 80 and over maintain their momentum in vaccinating its at-risk populations.
It will also help the UK deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to have offered vaccinations to the first four priority groups by mid-February.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today is a significant milestone in our vaccination programme as we open it up to millions more people who are most at risk from COVID-19.
“We are now delivering the vaccine at a rate of 140 jabs a minute and I want to thank everyone involved in this national effort.
“We have a long way to go and there will doubtless be challenges ahead – but by working together we are making huge progress in our fight against this virus.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock added: “Now that more than half of all over-80s have had their jab, we can begin vaccinating the next most vulnerable groups. Where an area has already reached the vast majority of groups 1 to 2, they can now start opening up the programme to groups 3 to 4.
“We are working day and night to make sure everyone who is 70 and over, our health and social care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable are offered the vaccine by the middle of February and our NHS heroes are making huge strides in making this happen.
“This measure does not mean our focus on getting care homes, healthcare staff and those aged 80 and over vaccinated is wavering – it will remain our utmost priority over the coming weeks to reach the rest of these groups.”
The guidance from the government and the NHS to local vaccination services remains that they should still offer the vaccine to each of the priority groups in the order set out by the JCVI.