The bottom age limit for booking a Covid jab has been lowered again, with over-40s to receive invitations today, NHS England has said.
It follows a week of almost daily lowering of the vaccine eligibility age from those aged 44 on the 26 April to then 43 and 42 year olds.
NHS England said more than three quarters of a million appointments were made on Monday and Tuesday this week as the vaccination programme widened.
Text messages will be going out to 40 and 41-year-olds today (Friday 30 April) asking them to arrange a jab through the national booking service.
An NHS England spokesperson has confirmed to Pulse that GP-led vaccination sites can also begin inviting these patients for their first dose.
However, they said that the majority will book through the national system, which was not previously linked with PCN vaccination sites.
It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday, administered by deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: ‘With nine tenths of people aged 45 and over having been jabbed, nearly three quarters of a million new appointments were made in just two days as our booking service opened to people aged 42 to 44.
‘With second doses also proceeding apace, we’re now ready to invite all those aged 40 and over to join the most successful vaccination drive in health service history.’
NHS medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, added: ‘The rapid rollout of the NHS vaccination programme, the swiftest in Europe, is down to months of careful planning and sheer hard work by nurses, doctors and countless other staff supported by our volunteers.’
People who cannot go online can call the service on 119 instead to book their jab.
NHS England last week told GPs that the vaccination programme was expected to be rolled out to the 40-44s this week, but that practices will continue to receive no ‘new’ first-dose deliveries as there is already enough vaccine supply ‘in systems’.
The Government also announced this week that it secured 60 million additional doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for delivery in a booster programme in the autumn.
Booster jabs will be ‘based on clinical need’ to ‘protect the most vulnerable ahead of the winter’, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
However, it added that the final policy will be informed by JCVI advice and the results of clinical trials into the interchangeability of Covid vaccines.