Next stage of Covid vaccine roll-out gets under way
- Credit: Danielle Booden
The next stage of the coronavirus vaccination programme is under way, with 15 million people having already been given their first dose.
From Monday, jabs are being administered to patients aged 65 to 69, and 16 to 64-year-olds with serious underlying health conditions.
It comes after the government successfully hit its target to offer vaccines to the top four priority groups by February 15.
That includes 13,165,548 delivered in England alone, of which 12,675,663 were first doses of the jab.
And this week, those in priority groups five and six are being invited to appointments at hospitals, GP-led sites and mass vaccination centres in Norfolk and Waveney.
Some under-70s in the area began receiving their vaccines last week where doses were available.
Also included in the next two cohorts are freelance and unpaid carers, who were not inoculated alongside frontline health and social care workers.
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: "After a strong start, the NHS vaccination programme - the biggest and fastest in Europe - is entering a new phase.
“This is an exciting moment as we now move on to those aged 65 and over and the clinically vulnerable as part of our plan to vaccinate as many people as possible who can benefit from it.
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“However, if you have already been offered a jab but have not taken it up it is not too late. Please come forward and help us to help you.”
As the first phase of the roll-out continues, almost 1.2m appointment letters were due to land on doorsteps across the nation by Saturday (February 13), with the same amount set to arrive this week.
Those who receive a letter can choose from large-scale vaccination centres or a pharmacy site.
In Norfolk and Waveney, there are currently four large centres - in Norwich, King's Lynn, Attleborough and North Walsham - and a single pharmacy, in Lowestoft, delivering jabs.
There is also a mass vaccination site across the Cambridgeshire border Horsefair Shopping Centre in Wisbech.
People are being asked to book jabs online by logging on to the national booking service.
Anyone unable to book online can call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.
GP-led vaccination sites will initially focus on the clinically vulnerable in cohort six because of the relationship between general practice and those with long-term conditions.
Should those aged 65 to 69 prefer to wait for a call from their GP, they do not need to respond to their appointment invitation.
Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has meanwhile urged the next cohorts to "sit tight" and wait to be contacted by the NHS.