UK set to beat deadline for over-50s COVID-19 jabs as campaign hits 100th day

The UK looks set to beat its target of offering a first COVID-19 jab to all patients in JCVI cohorts 1-9 by mid-April - as the NHS marked 100 days since the campaign began by opening invitations to all over-50s.

COVID-19 vaccine campaign (Photo: Andrew Aitchison/In Pictures/Getty Images)
COVID-19 vaccine campaign (Photo: Andrew Aitchison/In Pictures/Getty Images)

One hundred days after Margaret Keenan became the first UK patient to receive a COVID-19 vaccination outside of a clinical trial on 8 December, around 25m people UK-wide have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 1.7m of these people have also received a second dose, NHS data show.

The government's vaccine delivery plan estimates the total number of patients in the first nine priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) at 27m in England and 32m UK-wide.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said in early February that the UK hoped to offer a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all patients aged over 50 by May, and to all adults by the end of July. The government later shifted the over-50s deadline to 15 April.

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Latest updates on vaccination campaign progress: GPonline COVID-19 vaccination tracker

Patients aged 50-54 are the final priority cohort in the first nine groups identified by the JCVI - and in parts of the country the NHS has begun to offer vaccinations beyond these groups, into cohorts 10-12. Practice-led sites have begun to offer these vaccinations even before the Friday 19 March deadline for practices to opt in for these extra cohorts, which cover patients aged 18-49.

The UK now looks set to hit the over-50s target significantly before the end of April - because the vaccination programme has delivered 2.6m first doses per week on average since the start of February, and rollout is set to accelerate from this week.

COVID-19 vaccine campaign

GP-led sites and other vaccination hubs have been told to expect vaccine supply from this week to be around double the level available in the week beginning 1 March - as the NHS begins to focus on large numbers of second-dose vaccinations in addition to working through cohorts for first doses.

Around three quarters of doses have been delivered by GPs - suggesting that GP-led PCN vaccination sites alone have delivered close to 20m doses in total since the vaccination campaign began.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: 'Just 100 days since the NHS gave the world’s first COVID-19 jab outside of clinical trials, our vaccine programme passes another milestone as we now invite everyone aged 50 and over to book their vaccination.'

The NHS is set to send text messages and follow-up letters to millions of patients in the coming week.

NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said: 'The number of vaccines available to the NHS will continue to go up and down week by week and month by month in line with manufacturers’ ability to supply us.

'But this week and next we have larger supplies, so we want anyone in the top priority groups – people aged 50 and older as well as those working in health and care and anyone with an underlying health condition – to come forward soon to protect themselves and their loved ones.'

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