The NHS has confirmed the launch of the second phase of the vaccine rollout after ministers announced that the first stage had been completed by Monday 15th February.
The first stage of the rollout, which began in December 2020, was to vaccinate the top four priority groups outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). These groups included all over 70s and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable from other age groups, health and social care workers and care home residents. These four groups equate to roughly 15 million adults.
On Sunday 14th February, the Prime Minister confirmed that the number of first vaccinations had exceeded 15 million. On Monday 15th February, the second stage of the vaccine rollout launched in England and Wales.
The next part of the programme will target over 65s, people who have health conditions that make them vulnerable to the virus, adult carers and younger adults living in care homes. Once this stage has been completed, adults over 50 will be invited for a vaccine.
The current aim is to try and vaccinate everyone over 50 before the beginning of May. This is an ambitious target, but capacity is increasing day by day and the infrastructure to deliver thousands of vaccines per day is in place. The numbers are dependent on supply, but ministers are confident that they can hit the target for the next phase of the rollout. The over 50’s group accounts for another 17.2 million people.
Research suggests that over 90% of over 70s accepted the vaccine. Statistics from the Department for Health and Social Care indicate that 88% of Covid-19 deaths occur within the groups that have now been vaccinated. By the time all over 50s and those with underlying conditions that increase risks posed by Covid-19 have been immunised by the end of April, this should cover up to 99% of those at risk of dying from the virus.
Ministers and NHS workers have stressed that vaccines are still available for anyone who has been invited already, but chose not to have the injection. There is concern that uptake is lower in some communities, most notably Black and Asian communities, than others and the NHS is working hard with community leaders and local and regional health trusts and councils to try and ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine within the priority groups can access one. The offer remains open and anyone who has already been invited can make an appointment online or by calling their local GP surgery.